The authorities have failed to complete the Tannery Industrial Park at Savar even though it has been over three years after the tanneries were forced to shift there from Hazaribagh in the capital, adversely affecting leather exports and causing fresh pollutions in the area.
Officials said that the under-construction central effluent treatment plant in the new location would be unable to treat all effluents during peak harvest time as it overflowed before its construction was completed.
The authority failed to install any solid waste management facility even though the industries ministry has been working to implement the Tk 1078.71 crore tannery industrial park project for 17 years since 2003.
Consequently, the park releases both liquid and solid wastes into the adjacent River Dhaleshwari undoing the very objective of the tannery relocation which was to build an environment-friendly leather park, green activists alleged.
The relocation process had begun in 2003 with estimated cost Tk 175.75 crore, excluding the cost of CETP.
Following a High Court order in April 2017, the government cut off utilities to the tanneries at Hazaribagh and forced them to start production at Savar.
Several tanners said that no renowned international buyers purchased leather from them because of the pollutions which this year might affect the rawhide price like last year.
They also said that unless the tannery park is certified by Leather Working Group, a not-for-profit membership organisation for stakeholders across the leather supply chain, their products would not enjoy wide sales.
Bangladesh Tanners Association chairman Shaheen Ahmed said that rawhide of around Tk 500 crore remained unsold in tanneries in Savar last year.
Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology professor and also the consultation team leader for the tannery project Delwar Hossain said, CETP capacity was estimated to be 25,000 cubic metres daily but the tanneries there produce as high as 38,000 cubic metres in the peak season though only 123 of the 154 tanneries have started production partially.
Besides, the tanneries produce 80 to 100 tonnes of solid wastes daily during the off-peak time while the wastes exceed 200 tonnes during the peak season.
The planned CETP was not completed even after at least eight deadlines were missed.
The Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation is responsible for implementing the relocation of the heavy tannery industry from Dhaka’s Hazaribagh to Savar following unremitting criticism that it was polluting the River Buriganga.
The BUET consultant Delwar Hossain said that they had advised the government to immediately build another CETP to tackle the situation which would be more acute in a short time.
The project director, Jitendra Nath Paul, said that they had now instructed the tanneries to minimise the use of water during the tanning process to reduce overflow of the liquid waste.
He noted that the tanners were using excessive water, which was sometimes three times the standard.
Only 30 tonnes of water were required for processing each tonne of rawhide.
Tanners alleged that due to the pollution from the tannery park most of the reputable buyers suspended leather purchase from Bangladesh, further intensifying the crisis.
As a result, like last year, the price of cowhide might dip, forcing people to dump huge number of rawhides.
Leather is the country’s second largest export industry earning over a billion foreign currency last year and employing more than 30,000 people.
According to statistics, some 80 per cent of rawhides are collected after Eid-ul-Azha and most of them are exported to European and American countries.
The government has allocated Tk 477.46 crore for the CETP and the solid waste management.
Construction of them started in 2014 and was scheduled to be completed within 18 months.
But the CETP was not yet commissioned while nothing was done so far to ensure solid waste management.
Tannery project officials said that the tannery park project was unrealistic and it was not based on international practice.
BUET experts said that they were now upgrading the park according to the requirements set by the Leather Working Group.
LWG is a platform comprising brands, manufacturers, suppliers, NGOs and end users to develop and maintain a protocol that assesses the environmental compliance and performance capabilities of leather manufacturers and promotes sustainable and appropriate environmental business practices within the leather industry.
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