Toxic Tanneries Yet to Shift From Hazaribagh – The wait contineous.

Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu warned tannery owners of cancelling their plots unless they relocate their factories from Hazaribagh in Dhaka to the Leather Industrial Park at Savar by March 2015. The minister expressed concerns of Bangladesh losing on its leather and footwear market share globally if the tannery owners fail to produce goods by meeting the compliance criterion of the retailers.

Pollution created by tanneries are widespread. From the local residential neighborhood of Hazaribagh (located at the heart of Dhaka city), to the workers, and then spilling on to the most important rivers of the country, no place have been spared by its toxic nature.

Hazaribagh, one of the main pollutants of Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Hazaribagh, one of the main pollutants of Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Tanneries in the Hazaribagh area date back more than 40 years of operation and with 90% of all the tanneries in Bangladesh located into this area [1], making the area a home for people related exclusively to leather trade in Bangladesh. But, due to lack of safety measures and proper implementation of the Bangladesh Labor Law 2006 (amendment 2013), the condition of factories and workers remain the worst among all the industries in Bangladesh. Workers are lethally exposed to hazardous chemicals resulting in internal and external diseases. Child labor in this industry remains rampant. The absence of a functional effluent treatment plant for its many factories result in a release of a hellish load of toxic fluids into the nearby rivers (approximately 22000 Liters of toxic waste according to the Ministry of Environment, Bangladesh); hazaribagh is the primary reason for the loss of the ecosystem of one of the most important and historic rivers of Bangladesh, the Buriganga river.

Nowhere to go ... nowhere to hide

Nowhere to go … nowhere to hide. Hazaribagh.

If dissolved oxygen in water lessen below 6, it will be impossible for the aquatic animals and plants to survive. A study in January 2007 shows that at 4 among the total 9 points in Buriganga, the value of dissolved oxygen is 0 and at the rest 5, the average value of dissolved oxygen is 1.8. The Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) also reflects the pollution rate of water. The capability of water to destroy germs in it signifies the value of the BOD. The lower the value of the BOD in water, the lower will be the pollution rate in it. The tolerance limit of BOD in water is 2 to 6. But the study by Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) Civil Department in January, 2007 shows that the BOD in Buriganga at Hazaribagh area is 28.

Apart from the local tanneries, the minister suggested that many local and foreign companies have expressed interest in setting up factories at the leather estate in Savar, “We would rather consider those proposals.” he said.

The construction of a central effluent treatment plant (CETP), a key component of the project, will be completed by that time, said the Minister after holding a meeting with the tannery owners at his office in Dhaka.

Tanners should start relocation keeping the issues of environment protection and export potential in mind, said Environment Minister.

According to Mr. M Abu Taher, chairman of Bangladesh Finished Leather, Leather Goods and Footwear Exporters’ Association, a total of 102 tannery owners began constructing their factories at Savar Leather Industrial Park. Some 30 companies are expected to complete relocation by March and 75 companies by June. The industries ministry has already allocated plots on the 200-acre leather estate to 155 tannery owners through Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC), a wing of the industries ministry that is implementing the project.The government will provide Tk 250 crore as compensation money to the tannery owners.

At the meeting, it was decided that the first installment of the compensation would be paid this month on a pro-rata basis to those tannery owners who began construction in full swing, the ministry said in a statement.

The leather industry has set records for exports that rose 32.12 percent year-on-year to $1.29 billion in fiscal 2013-14, according to data from the Export Promotion Bureau.

 

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[1] Karmaker S. 2010. Planning for the Tannery Waste Contaminated Hazaribagh Area. Germany: VDM Verlag Dr. Muller Gmbh & Co.KG. p. 7

[2] Buriganga Pollution: Reasons & Prospects, 2008

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Posted in Leather Worker Issues

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