Tannery relocation project still limps

Shakhawat Hossain

The government is struggling to complete the tannery relocation project by the present deadline of next March because of tanners who are developing their factories at a very sluggish pace at the new site in Savar.
The project officials said only 25 tanners out of 155 started construction of their factories in the allocated plots in full swing.
Another 80 have developed only boundary walls and the others were yet to start any work, they said, fearing that they might not be able to complete all the works of factory construction in the next six months.
They said if the tanners do not take serious initiatives to build their factories at the new site, the government might miss yet another deadline of tannery relocation from the city’s Hazaribgh area to save the dying river Buriganga.
‘We are facing difficulties to complete the major components of the project by the deadline,’ project director Sirajul Haider told New Age.
He said the tanners could not make expected progress despite repeated reminders to build their factories as soon as possible.
Industries minister Amir Hossain Amu on Wednesday expressed his disappointment with the tanners for their slow pace of activities.
He threatened plot cancellation of the tanners who would fail to relocate their factories at the new leather estate by next March after a review meeting of the project at his secretariat office.
There are many willing tanners from home and abroad who are demanding for the plots. ‘We will give them the plots instead of the errant tanners,’ he warned.
He said the tanners were not making expected progress to develop their factories at the new site. They (the tanners) already failed to maintain major conditions of the deal they have struck with the government, he said.
He said full-fledged operation by the tanners was essential for commissioning of the central effluent treatment plant in the next six months.
Bangladesh Tanners Association president Shaheen Ahmed said the association would consult with the tanners to speed up the work of their factory development.
He said they were forced to go to the new site to be complaint to the foreign buyers.
Amu expressed satisfaction with the progress of CETP by the Chinese contractor. The CETP is estimated to cost around Tk 550 crore.
Under a memorandum of understanding with the government signed in 2007, the tannery owners had agreed to repay the CETP cost in 15 years.
In 2003, the government assigned Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation to implement the relocation project in line with a High Court directive.
The court directed the government to save the Buriganga river threatened by 25,000 tonnes of untreated wastes and 60,000 cubic metres of toxic chemicals released into the river everyday by the tanneries.
But the government failed to relocate the tanneries in 10 years.
Environmentalists have expressed their disappointment over the long delay in relocating the tanneries, doubling the shifting costs.
They blamed the tannery owners for the undue delay and the cost escalation.
In August 2013, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council approved the new relocation project doubling the cost to Tk 1,079 crore from Tk 545.36 crore due to the delay in implementation.
In 2003, BSCIC took up the project to build a 199.40-acre new leather industry park with 205 factory plots, as well as a modern central effluent treatment plant and dumping yard.

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