Waste management at Savar leather estate

Dhaka,  Sun,  28 May 2017
Published : 19 May 2017, 21:45:13
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Waste management at Savar leather estate

Now that the tanneries in the capital's Hazaribagh have started moving to the Savar leather estate, the promise of the Central Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) that the authorities were drumming up as a secure means to warding off pollution of all sorts, appears to be faltering. Observers hold that things are far from being in the final shape to fulfil the promise. Unfortunately, this has increased the misery of the relocated tannery units, besides affecting the adjoining localities, including the Dhaleshwari river. While the move to build the leather estate away from the capital was largely motivated by the hope of saving the Buriganga river has now, apparently, shifted to harm the Dhaleshwari.

The CETP meant to take care of the waste, as the reports said, has run into snags. Sadly, it is not any mechanical glitch -- not very uncommon in the installation of such a big treatment plant, but something that has to do with the authority's flawed planning. It was well known that once the tanneries started operating in the relocated site, waste disposal would demand supreme priority, but delay in setting up a power plant to burn the solid waste as well as produce 5.0mw of power has caused the most unlikely situation. In fact, the power plant was of immediate necessity, not only to burn the solid waste but equally importantly, to feed the CETP to treat liquid waste before being flashed into the river system. In the absence of the functioning power plant, solid waste of nearly 60 tanneries that have already moved to Savar from Hazaribagh are generating severe air pollution in areas surrounding the leather estate. The authorities, under the circumstances, are now thinking of an alternative way of disposing of solid waste at the Amin Bazar dump, which must not be viewed as a solution but only a temporary recourse until the CETP is fully geared.

So long, the government had been giving the impression that everything is well set at the Savar leather estate for relocation. But it is clear now that there was a serious lack of coordination among those on the ground and those howling punishment for the recalcitrant tanneries. This is not just a case of delayed project implementation but also of one that questions the government's credibility. It is not at all conceivable how the authorities concerned gave the green signal for relocation while there were critical things yet to be done, that too relating to the much-hyped CETP! 

Tannery is known to contain the highest level of waste, particularly toxic waste, among all industries. About 20 per cent of the large number of chemicals used in the tanning process is absorbed by leather, while the rest is released as waste. If the existing situation persists in the leather estate, things are sure to move from bad to worse. Under the circumstances, the government has to put in place all that is required to ensure that solid and liquid waste treatment is done quickly so that neither the environment nor the water bodies including the Dhaleshwari take the toll of ill-planned relocation.
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