THE High Court Division once again had to order the government to immediately close down all the poultry and fish feed producers that use toxic tannery wastes from making and marketing feed for poultry and fish. The court had to issue the directive on Tuesday in the wake of the government’s inaction in this regard after the court on July 21, 2011 had issued a directive for the government to order a ban on the production of poultry and fish feed from tannery wastes that contain materials hazardous to human health. As the government has taken no action against such feed producers or the factories, the court asked the commerce and the industries, the food, the health and the fisheries and livestock secretary and the inspector general of police to take stern action against the producers and submit a compliance report in 30 days. The court also directed the respondents to explain in four weeks why contempt of court proceedings would not be drawn against them for failing to stop the production and marketing of such feed keeping to the 2011 directive.
The petitioner of the writ, on which the court gave the directive, is reported to have submitted that the authorities concerned have not taken any punitive action against the producers for flouting the 2011 ban. Such indolence, if not unwillingness, of the government has allowed the situation to reach such a dangerous pass. Thirty types of toxic chemicals, including acid, chromium, salt and sodium chloride, are reported to have been found in tannery wastes, which are boiled, dried and ground into power to be used as feed for poultry and fish. The heavy metals, which can cause cancer, contained in the feed enter humans through the consumption of fish and poultry, which can have telling effects on public health. When tanneries were relocated in 2017 from Hazaribagh, inside the capital city, to the city’s outskirts Savar, a number of feed producers shifted their units to Savar. Tanneries now running in the Leather Industry Estate at Savar are reported to be producing 25 tonnes of solid wastes a day, which find their way to such factories that produce feed. The presence of chromium beyond the permissible limit has been detected in an Institute of Public Health study this February. A 2013 study published in the International Journal of Scientific and Engineering Research found the presence of chromium in 75 per cent of chicken samples collected from eight districts and a research of the Bangladesh Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in 2007 found chromium in commercially produced poultry feed.
In a situation like this, the court’s directive is a welcome step towards safeguarding public health. Only the government needs to act, keeping of the court order, to make consumption of fish and chicken safe for people. While the government must act, in earnest and early, to stop feed producers from using toxic tannery wastes as ingredients and marketing such feed, it must also respond to the court’s directive with sincerity. It is also hoped that the court would follow up on the issue and make the government act in the way required to head off this impending public health problem.
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