The Allahabad High Court has summoned Uttar Pradesh government officials of Agra district to explain why a leather shoe industry cluster was being sited close to the eco-sensitive Soor Sarovar Bird Sanctuary.
The sanctuary is situated on the Agra-Delhi highway, along the Yamuna river.
In a public suit in the high court, local environmentalist Devashish Bhattacharya has contended that the leather cluster would not only damage the ecology of the sensitive green buffer between the Mathura Oil Refinery and the world heritage Taj Mahal monument but also deter migratory birds from nesting in the area.
The Soor Sarovar Pakshi Vihar (Keitham Lake earlier), spread over seven square miles, is home to hundreds of species of migratory birds and reptiles, pythons in particular, plus the only bear rescue centre in India with over 400 inmates.
Industries in Agra have been long eyeing a major chunk of fertile land, sandwiched between the river Yamuna and the bird sanctuary. These industries had clandestinely worked out an arrangement with the state government for earmarking the area for socalled "pollution-free" industries, the leather shoe making units being one.
Environmentalists, however, claim the industry was highly polluting using a variety of hazardous chemicals, the tanneries in particular, and that the leather cuttings in the city was a major source of pollution, being openly burnt everywhere despite protests.
Bhattacharya told IANS: "The Allahabad high court has accepted my PIL and has issued notices to the ministry of environment and forests, the chairman of the Taj Trapezium Zone Authority, the Agra Development Authority, the wild life officers and other related departments. They have been given seven days' notice to file replies."