THE health concern that local people have raised centring on the pollution that the Savar Leather Estate has been causing is genuine. It calls out the government on attending to the issues. A substantial number of tanneries have already been moved from Hazaribagh in Dhaka to the leather estate, on the outskirts of the capital. But without a functional central effluent treatment plant being in place, the tanneries in the estate, however small in number, have for months been causing the same pollution there, this time polluting the River Dhaleswari and its environment and putting public health there at risk. People of the area have already held protests inside the estate and demanded that the government should stop the functions of the leather estate until it can complete the work of the central effluent treatment plant and, by so doing, stop the pollution that is now taking place there. As the effluent treatment plant could not be completed to make it fully functional, all the tanneries that are there, only 27 per cent of the tanneries that functioned at Hazaribagh, keep dumping the toxic wastes in open spaces and into the river, without being treated.
About 14 years have passed since the government took up the project to relocate tanneries from Hazaribagh to Savar. But the government has not been able to make the central effluent treatment plant, being built there, fully functional. This is a glaring failure of the government and should be immediately addressed. The situation has reached such a height, with a third of the Hazaribagh tanneries being relocated to Saver. When all the tanneries would start functioning in the leather estate, the area could very well hurtle to a disaster with the plant still not being functional then. The long relocation process would only mean that only the tannery units would be relocated, but with all the adverse consequences. The government, on the other hand, has extended the deadline yet another time, as New Age reported on Wednesday, for all the tanneries at Hazaribagh to move to the Savar estate. It, thus, might lend credence to the public perception that the government has so done as it could not complete the work of the central effluent treatment plant in the leather estate at Savar. Such government negligence in, or apathy towards, making the Industrial Leather Estate fully functional could spell a disaster and would render the efforts of all these years meaningless.
The government, under the circumstances, must put in more efforts to complete the work of the central effluent treatment plant, earnestly and early. It must also hold to account any individual or entity that could be behind the delay in the process. Yet the government must move all the tanneries from Hazaribagh to Savar at any cost.
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