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Last court prod for leather plant

The curtains came down on the long-drawn legal controversy surrounding the common effluent treatment plant (CETP) at the Calcutta Leather Complex (CLC), on Friday, with the Supreme Court giving its final verdict on the case and setting a deadline for the completion of the Bantala project.

The division bench of Justices M.B. Shah and Ashok Bhan directed the Union government to bear 50 per cent of the expenses towards the setting up of four modules of the CETP.

Besides instructing the Centre to bear half the cost, the apex court set a December 2004 deadline for the completion of the Rs 350-crore CLC, work on which commenced in 1995.

The division bench also gave the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government a week’s time to firm up the financial and other requirements for setting up the four modules of CETP and pass on the information to all parties concerned.

M.L. Dalmiya & Co, responsible for constructing the complex on 1,100 acres of land on a build-operate-transfer basis (BOT), has been directed by the apex court to complete the project by the end of 2004.

The court also directed the company not to transfer land, earmarked for 98 tannery units, till completion of the complex. These small units have been given time to form co-operatives or partnership to take up land and set up units at the complex. The tanneries, which have already shifted, would continue to function from the complex.

“It’s not right to comment before seeing the order,” was the official reaction from M.L. Dalmiya & Co, on Friday.

In its order, the court mentioned that the Centre’s contribution to CETP would be routed through M.L. Dalmiya & Co. As per the agreement, the remaining 50 per cent of the expenses for the common facilities will be borne by the state government.

Justices Shah and Bhan made it clear that the Friday verdict was the final order of the court as they disposed of the case in presence of representatives of the central government, the state government, and M.L. Dalmiya & Co.

Earlier, the court had ordered the shifting of tanneries from the congested metropolis of Calcutta, and the Bengal government had promised to construct the CLC. The West Bengal Pollution Control Board was directed to keep in touch with the Central Pollution Control Board to implement effective pollution control mechanisms like separation of solid from other wastes and disposal of leather wastes.

The shifting of tanneries from the Tangra-Tiljala-Topsia belt was mired in a dispute as the units complained about lack of facilities at CLC and refused to budge. The state government had passed the impasse buck to the Centre saying it was not releasing funds required for the completion of the project.

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