Lift bar on LPG bottling plants near Sundarbans
The High Court (HC) yesterday (Tuesday) directed the Department of Environment (DoE) to issue environmental clearance certificates to three separate LPG companies to set up their LPG bottling plants in Mongla near the Sundarbans, an Ecologically Critical Area (ECA). However, the HC bench gave two observations, saying that it was the government that would decide how many and what kind of industries would be set up in Mongla industrial area of Bagerhat. It also observed that the court order would not create any obstacle for the government to take any initiative to stop setting up new industries in the industrial areas. The HC bench, comprising Justice FRM Nazmul Ahasan and Justice KM Kamrul Kader, came up with the order and observations after making its previous rule absolute that paved the way for the three separate companies to set up their LPG factories near the Sundarbans.
In October last year, Thengamara Mahila Sabuj Sangha (TMSS) LPG Limited and Baraka Ltd filed two separate writ petitions seeking permission to set up their LPG factories near the Sundarbans. The petitioners mentioned that the government had already allowed 152 companies to set up factories near the Sundarbans area.
Another company, namely Delta LPG, had also filed a similar petition with the HC this year, citing the same reason.
All the three companies challenged the inaction of the DoE in disposing of their applications for issuance of environmental clearance certificates for establishing LPG bottling plants in the Mongla industrial area.
The HC bench earlier issued separate rules asking the government why it should not be directed to give permission to the companies to set up their factories near the Sundarbans area.
After the final hearing, the HC bench yesterday (Tuesday) asked the DoE to give environmental clearances to the three companies within 60 days.
After the HC order, the state lawyer told reporters that they would file an appeal against the HC order.
Attorney-general Mahbubey Alam represented the state, accompanied by deputy attorney-general ABM Abdullah-Al-Mahmud Bashar.
During the hearing on the rule, barrister Shafique Ahmed, counsel for the petitioner, told the court that TMSS LPG Ltd is a non-profit organisation and it wanted to establish the LPG bottling plant, which would not damage the trees, water and soil.
Many other companies, including Green Tower LPG ltd, Orion LPG, Mir LPG, Bengal LPG, Omiron LPG, Bashundhara LPG and Navana LPG, have been allowed to establish their industries in the same area, he noted. If TMSS LPG company is not allowed to establish the company, it will be a discrimination, which would hamper their right to profession and business, Ahmed added.
On the other hand, the attorney-general opposed the writ petition, saying that the government is committed to protecting the Sundarbans as a world heritage site as per the UNESCO’s directives.
If TMSS LPG Ltd is allowed to set up the industrial unit, the environment of the area and the Sundarbans would be damaged, the AG said.
Earlier, on August 24, 2017, a HC bench directed the government not to approve any industry within 10km of the Sundarbans, and to submit a list of establishments already built in the area.
The HC bench of Justice Moyeenul Islam Chowdhury and Justice JBM Hassan passed the order following a writ petition filed by Sheikh Faridul Islam, president of Save the Sundarbans Foundation.
In the petition, Sheikh Faridul Islam said the environment and forests ministry had issued a gazette notification declaring the zone within 10km of the Sundarbans an ECA. As a result, factories within the area should be relocated.
A meeting of the National Environment Committee also decided to relax and change some rules and policies to allow factories that could be potentially risky for the environment, the petition added.
Earlier, at a meeting of the National Environment Committee, it was decided that the ministry would approve all factories currently operating in the ECA.
At present, the Bangladesh Environment Conservation (Amendment) Act, 2010 prohibits any factory within the ECA.