THE government could arrange for the relocation of tanneries from the heart of the city at Hazaribagh to the outskirts of Savar. The process began in 2003, but it has yet to move the last remaining tanneries from Hazaribagh. The plan aimed at preventing any further pollution of the River Buriganga. While about two-thirds of the tanneries could be relocated by the end of 2017, deadlines being extended repeatedly since then have effectively held off a complete relocation. In such a situation, it has been unwise of the government to have extended the deadline by one more year, which would now require the tanneries to move out by December 2020. The relocation process, even if to the extent it has now stood, has failed to yield the expected results as the industrial units in the Leather Industry Estate at Savar run without the central effluent treatment plant and dumps. The delay in the full implementation of the relocation project undertaken by the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation proved environmentally and financially costly.
The corporation took up the project in 2003 against the backdrop of about 250 factories at Hazaribagh having discharged 21,000 cubic metres of untreated waste into the river a day. The actual project work, however, began in 2012 because of the reluctance of the tanneries at moving out of Hazaribagh. The project cost that time was Tk 175.75 crore and the project completion was expected by 2005. But the deadline has since then been extended for at least seven times that escalated the project cost about five times the original cost and kept polluting the Buriganga. About 30 tanneries have yet to comply with the High Court directive and they still run at Hazaribagh, polluting the Buriganga. The government’s extending the deadline yet again by a year, therefore, appears to be shocking. Successive governments too have lacked the commitment to expediting the relocation. The implementation flaws and oversights also showed half-heartedness in the approach. The central effluent treatment plant still not being in operation at Savar now pollutes the River Dhaleswari. Media reports of May 2018 say that a Chinese contractor responsible for building and maintaining the effluent treatment plant did not install a chrome separation unit and BSCIC allowed tanners to dump solid waste in the locality. Such a faulty implementation and the delay in the relocation completion defeat the purpose of the project of ending river pollution.
The implementing agencies must, therefore, pull themselves together considering the impact of tannery waste on public health and the environment and ensure that the project is completed without further delay. The corporation must play its role in stopping the replication of the pollution of the Buriganga in the River Dhaleswari.
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