AN INCOMPLETE and poorly functional central effluent treatment plant and solid waste management at the Savar Leather Estate have adversely affected leather export and the environment. The authorities have failed to install, as New Age reported on Thursday, any solid waste management facility even though the industries ministry has worked to implement the project for 17 years since 2003. It has also been more than three years since the relocation of tanneries from Hazaribagh in the capital to the Savar estate. Not all the tanneries are functioning, but the park releases liquid and solid wastes into the adjacent River Dhaleswari for lack of effluent treatment and waste management, defeating the purpose of tannery relocation. The incomplete central effluent treatment plant, able to process about 25,000 cubic metres of waste a day, now overflows with an estimated daily discharge of about 40,000 cubic metres. Poor waste management has also kept, according to the tanners, most reputed buyers away from buying leather from Bangladesh, resulting in a sharp decline in rawhide prices in 2019.
The government allocated Tk 477.46 crore for the treatment plant and solid waste management facilities. The construction began in 2014 with a completion time of 18 months. The authorities have, however, so far missed eight deadlines since 2014 to complete the treatment plant while nothing was done about solid waste management. The estate is, therefore, yet to be certified by the Leather Working Group which has heavily affected the second-largest export-oriented industry of the country. Rawhide of about Tk 500 crore remained unsold at Savar tanneries in 2019 as many buyers have suspended leather purchase from Bangladesh. A similar situation is feared this year to as the treatment plant is still being readied with equipment and facilities yet to be installed. Besides affecting the industry, the delay in the completion of the project has resulted in cost overruns — the project was estimated to cost Tk 175.75 crore in 2003 and the project completion was expected by 2005, but an unacceptable delay of about a decade and a half has pushed up the cost about five times and, at the same time, the estate has polluted the Dhaleswari and adjacent area, putting public health at risk.
The government must, therefore, complete all the tasks of waste management and waste treatment without delay to make the estate function properly and to stop the pollution of the river and the environment. An early completion of the central effluent treatment plant is a must and the construction of another treatment plant, as advised by experts, could be considered. It would be a waste of public money if the relocation does not serve the purpose.
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