The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday directed the government to shut down the controversial Godawari Marbles Factory, located in Lalitpur district, in a move to protect the environment and biodiversity.
A three-member bench of Justices Sushila Karki, Govinda Upadhyay and Jagadish Sharma Poudel passed the verdict, stating that the factory’s operations including quarrying and extraction works caused adverse impacts on the local environment and threatened the existence of globally important flora and fauna. The decision was in response to the petition filed in 2001 by Pro Public, demanding that the Godawari Marbles be restricted to carry out extraction works as it threatens biodiversity of the area.
The apex court’s ruling has been hailed as a major victory by the environmentalists and activists, who have continuously raised concerns over the adverse impacts from the extraction of mines and operation of the marble factory on local environment, public and rich flora and fauna in Godawari and surrounding areas in the Phulchowki hills.
“This is a major achievement in our fight for the protection of the rich biodiversity in the area that was under severe threat from the factory,” said Tirtha Bahadur Shrestha, an environmentalist.
Raising concerns over operations of the factory, established almost four decades ago, the first petition was filed by the environmentalists in 1992 demanding the closure of the factory. It mentioned that the factory set up without following any environmental standards and guidelines was responsible for deteriorating the local environment and causing adverse impacts on the rich biodiversity of Godawari and Pulchowki area. The Department of Mines and Geology, however, renewed the factory’s licence until 2011 despite the public outcry.
A group of environmentalists including lawyers representing Pro Public continued its fight against the government’s decision, filing another petition in 2001 demanding an end to the factory’s extraction works. The petitioners this time, citing a government study, mentioned that the factory’s activities had been affecting the fertility of land in the area and decreased the water availability, leading to a decline in food production. But before the apex court could issue a verdict, the Department of Mines extended factory’s licence to operate until 2021.
“Thursday’s court verdict annuls the Department of Mines and Geology’s decision, further asking the government not to extend the lease period,” said Prakash Mani Sharma, senior advocate with Pro Public, a non-government organisation fighting for the rights of the people, including the one against the Godawari Marbles.
The areas surround the Godawari Marbles are home to 330 types of butterflies, 254 types of birds, 80 types of trees and 571 types of fruits. The area also houses a botanical garden and fish farming research centre. The writ states the main food for birds and animals in the area is limestone and tampering with it will impact the biodiversity.