Troubled relocation of tanneries

Dhaka,  Wed,  20 September 2017
Published : 12 Apr 2017, 20:58:29

Troubled relocation of tanneries

The process of shifting of tanneries from the city's Hazaribagh to the newly-built tannery estate at Savar demonstrates how a good move has turned troublesome due to foot-dragging and inefficiency of the relevant government agencies and non-compliance on the part of a section of the tannery owners. The top courts ordered shifting of tanneries and the Department of Environment (DoE), in compliance with that order, snapped all utility connections late last week.  However, indications are there that the process of shifting would continue to give more problems for some more time. 

Tanneries are considered to be one of the major environment-polluters largely because of care-free release of their wastes, chemical or otherwise, in water bodies or in open space. Yet starting from the 1960s, this particular industry flourished at Hazaribagh, near the bank of the River Buriganga, thus becoming one of the prime polluters of its water and environment and making the life of the residents in nearby localities miserable for decades. And the authorities concerned had turned a blind eye to all such developments until the mid-1980s when the government initiated some moves. The major step was taken as far back as 2003 when the government took up a project to set up a tannery estate at Savar over a land area of 200 acres. But a major section of tannery owners was not supportive of it, and disfavoured shifting of their establishments. 

Under such circumstances, the government was found to be slow in building the estate having all the modern facilities and utility services. Most important here was the waste treatment plant. The agency concerned appeared to be slow in its construction of the industry site and thus making available all the utility services there. However coming under pressure from the environmentalists and local people, the government appeared to have taken a tough stance on relocation in recent years. But many owners of tanneries and other related polluting industries were found to be unrelenting. Lots of conditions were tagged to their transfer to new estate at Savar. The situation took a final shape when the country's higher court intervened, setting a time-limit for relocation. 

Following the latest action on the part of the DoE, the tannery owners and workers last Monday gave the government an ultimatum to ensure all utilities at the new site at Savar within next 15 days. This demand is quite logical, particularly when industries are being relocated using coercive measures by none other than the government itself. When all conscious citizens support the relocation of the tanneries from the present site, they can hardly overlook the dislocation and financial losses that are being caused to the owners and workers of tanneries. It is also hard to ignore the fact that a good number of tanneries have failed to secure plots in the Savar Tannery Estate that might lead to job losses of a few thousand workers. Again, there are questions about the effluent treatment quality and capacity of the central effluent treatment plant (CETPI at the newly built tannery estate.

More importantly, tanneries are a very important part of an export-oriented industry that has been declared, on strong valid grounds, a thrust sector. It fetches the country foreign exchange worth over US$1.0 billion annually and has all the potential to scale the earning further up with right kind of support. The authorities concerned do need to demonstrate caution and extend all possible cooperation, on a priority basis, to the tanners with a view to helping the latter to start their operation at the new site smoothly.

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
Published by the Editor for International Publications Limited from Tropicana Tower (4th floor), 45, Topkhana Road, GPO Box : 2526 Dhaka- 1000 and printed by him from City Publishing House Ltd., 1 RK Mission Road, Dhaka-1000.
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