Waste management plan for tannery industry still flawed

Published at 12:00am on August 30, 2018

TANNERY waste continues to pollute Hazaribagh in Dhaka. A photograph that New Age published on Wednesday shows how sacrificial animal wastes are dumped by roads at Hazribagh. The unbearable stench from rotting waste made the everyday life of local people difficult. With the relocation of the tanneries to Savar on the capital’s outskit, rawhides are meant not to enter Hazaribagh. Tanners have, however, illegally used the abandoned factories to store rawhides and left excesses in open spaces. This has always been the scenario after each Eid-ul-Adha, when Muslims sacrifice a huge number of animals. The situation could have, therefore, been easily prevented if city authorities had been well prepared to deal with animal wastes during Eid.
The plan to prevent pollution requires a complete undoing of tannery industry at Hazarabagh. Tanners who moved out still illegally maintain businesses in factories there. There are some who still run their tanneries in the capital. There are allegations that they continue to do so by bribing police and government officials. Green activists say that these abandoned establishments need to be dismantled or made available for other purposes than leather production. Besides, the waste management plan for the tannery industry is considered flawed for various reasons. Earlier, we have written how roughly 12,000 cubic metres of untreated effluents from 67 tanneries at the Leather Industrial Estate at Savar is dumped into the River Dhaleswari every day. The river is becoming increasingly polluted as tanneries shifted to Savar started their journey even before the central effluent treatment plant and other related facilities were fully installed there. Flouting a High Court order, toxic tannery wastes are used to produce poultry feed at Savar. The police in charge of the tannery estate acknowledged the inefficiency of their drives to control this illegal trading as poultry and fish feed mills reappear immediately after they were demolished. It is evident that the waste management issue in tanneries is not a temporary problem that surfaces especially at the time of Eid-ul-Adha. Instead, it is a persistent structural problem that all the authorities concerned must address immediately.
After a protracted legal battle, the government was able to finally relocate the tanneries from the heart of the city to Savar. The main objective was to prevent further environmental pollution. The River Dhaleswari at Savar, a tributary of the River Buriganga, is now being polluted as factory owners there dispose of chromium-mixed untreated effluents in it. For a successful implementation of the relocation project, the government must strictly ensure that all factories are relocated from Hazaribagh and abandoned infrastructure are dismantled or used for purposes other than rawhide processing. The city authorities must take action against the tanners who are still illegally using the facilities at Hazaribagh. More importantly, the government must have a comprehensive waste management plan for the tannery industries.