AN UNABATED environmental pollution in and around the BSCIC Leather Industrial Estate at Savar in the absence of adequate waste disposal measures is highly worrying. The estate, where polluting tanneries have been relocated from Hazaribagh in the capital city, has been in operation for a few years now. But the estate has largely failed to ensure environmentally-friendly operation resulting in the pollution of the River Dhaleswari and surrounding areas with untreated effluents. It appears that the relocation of the tanneries has, in effect, been a relocation of the pollution. What is also worrying is that tanners and the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation continue to blame each other for the menace that is a threat to the environment and public health. The corporation says that it cannot control pollution as tanners discharge unfiltered waste into the treatment plant for lack of equipment as tanners use water three times the usual quantity, creating an overflow and as tanners have not installed bar screens that work as filters in chrome and effluent pipelines.
The Bangladesh Tanners’ Association, however, claims that the corporation is in charge of the central effluent treatment plant and the corporation is responsible for the pollution that contaminates water and soil. The association also alleges that the foreign contractor of the plant runs it for a few hours a day to cut down on cost, dumping the remaining untreated water into the river at night. All this points to a sorry state of a costly project that is supposed to facilitate an environmentally-friendly growth of the second-largest export industry. The environment department fined the corporation and a few tanners in the recent past for their negligence in and contribution to pollution. Such penalty would do little unless the leather industrial estate, which is still incomplete 18 years after the industries ministry began implementing the Tk 1078.71 crore project, is equipped with all required facilities, especially waste treatment facilities and unless the tanners and workers are trained to properly dispose of wastes. An ill-functioning industrial estate adversely impacts not only the environment but also the industry as a poor waste management is reported to have kept many of reputable buyers from buying leather from Bangladesh.
The blame game that appears to have been going on for some time now between the tanners and the supervising agency will not help to contain the pollution. The stakeholders must begin the real task of saving the environment and facilitating the leather industry in an environmentally-friendly way. The authorities concerned must also complete all tasks regarding waste management at the earliest. The tanners also need to be trained to properly discharge wastes. It would mean nothing but an imprudent expenditure of public money if the estate continues to pollute the environment.
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