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Why not close the Tannery Industrial Estate at Savar
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Why not close the Tannery Industrial Estate at Savar, Dhaka (Bangladesh)?

Why not close the Tannery Industrial Estate at Savar, Dhaka (Bangladesh)?


The Department of Environment (Bangladesh) has asked the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) why the Savar Tannery Industrial Estate in Hemayetpur will not close despite the recommendation issued by the Parliamentary Standing Committee.

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) informed during a press release that “the Department of Environment (Bangladesh) has sent a letter to the BSCIC chairman seeking a “clear” explanation, on September 19, 2021.

On August 23, 2021, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the MoEFCC recommended that the Tannery Industrial Estate in Savar be shut down for the time being due to poor waste management.

Well, there are several factors at play in this recommendation. Most tanneries have already relocated to Savar from the capital’s Hazaribagh area to protect the Buriganga River, nearing extinction due to pollution.

The untreated hazardous wastes from the leather companies, on the other hand, are significantly damaging another major river, the Dhaleshwar, endangering its existence and biodiversity. The river’s aquatic resources, especially fish, are nearly extinct since the water has been gravely poisoned by the daily dumping of large amounts of untreated sewage and dissolved salts from the tanneries.

Through drains and four large pipes, all types of hazardous waste from tanneries run into the river. It is challenging to take a breath near the river due to the awful odor emanating from the polluted black-colored water of the endangered river.

The newly relocated tanneries are causing significant contamination to over 20,000 residents in the vicinity, with no adequate environmental protection measures in place. People in the area are suffering from various ailments, particularly skin diseases, resulting from the negative impact of environmental deterioration. Due to the contamination of river water with tannery pollutants, even tube-well water in the area has become smelly.

However, the ministry assured during the press release that it has started taking steps to implement the parliamentary committee’s recommendations. The BSCIC chairperson will have to explain the matter to the environment department by September 20, 2021.

Saber Hossain Chowdhury, Chairperson of the parliamentary standing committee, said the decision came after inspecting the Tannery Industrial Estate. The ministry told the parliamentary committee that the Tannery Industrial Estate of Savar produces 40,000 cubic meters of waste daily.

However, the waste management capacity is 25 thousand cubic meters. In other words, 15,000 cubic meters of waste is mixing into the environment daily. In the last three years, 18.4 million cubic meters of waste remained unmanaged.

Notably, in 2003, the government took the initiative to build the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) Tannery Industrial Estate on 200 acres (81 hectares) of land at Hemayetpur on accounts of moving all tanneries from the capital’s Hazaribagh to prevent environmental pollution of the Buriganga.

The Ministry of Industries (Bangladesh) keeps setting a deadline for relocating the tanneries without ensuring any benefits to the industrial zone. Nevertheless, the tannery owners refused to relocate. To handle the situation, the honorable high court ordered disconnecting the gas, water, and electricity connection of Hazaribagh factories. Finally, the tannery owners switched to Savarin in April 2017 on a court order.

Initially, the proposal stated that each tannery would set up Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP)  separately to treat its waste individually. However, as the tanneries did not do so, the Ministry of Industries, Bangladesh, under its project, decided to set up Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP). After the revision, the project’s budget increased to 5450 million (Tk.85 ≈ US$ 1.00).

Before the completion of the various components of the CETP, 130 industries started their production. As a result, earlier tanneries waste used to mix with the Buriganga River’s water at Hazaribagh, now mixing with the water of Dhaleshwari River in Savar.

During the meeting, the parliamentary committee said, “Savar’s Tannery Industrial Estate could get the chance to function again only after taking proper steps to manage environmental pollution and waste.” They further recommend collecting maximum compensation through fines until the closure.

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