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Safe waste disposal from Savar tanneries

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HOPE for green tannery industrial park at Savar, in the outskirts of Dhaka is fading away as pollutions from the relocated tannery factories are dumping chemically treated waste into Dhaleswari River. The relocation was aimed at saving Buriganga River from pollution from discharge of tannery waste but Dhaleswari is now new victim in absence of a fully operational affluent treatment plant (ETP) in the new site. 

Discharge of leather waste is now deadly polling the area sparking protest from people of the locality. The pollution is seriously affecting the environment and the stint in the air is making life miserable. In this situation people's demand for suspension of tannery activities in the park until full operation of the ETP can't be ignored, though it is also difficult. Factories in the industrial estate now produce 12000 cubic meters solid waste daily and without a proper waste management system and chrome recovery unit, factories are discharging untreated waste into canals and river.

It is a new threat to people's livelihood, agro-production, and fisheries. The Environment Ministry can't avoid responsibility, because it should have make sure that waste treatment system is fully operational before allowing factories to go into production. It is true the government made haste to move out factories to the new site; as factory owners were reluctant to move out. But it can't be an excuse for factories to discharge waste to open air facilities. What is important at this moment is to quickly complete the remaining work of the ETP and ensure safe waste management. No delay is acceptable that may cause immense suffering to the people and damage to environment.    

Savar tannery park project was initiated in 2003 by the government following directives of the High Court to shift factories from Hazaribagh in the capital to protect people's health and save Buriganga River from discharge of waste. The construction of the industrial park took long time and the awarding of contract for building ETP was further delayed as vested quarters were at work to get the contracts at several time higher costs. Factories were finally shifted to Savar in last April but pollution of environment is still continuing.

Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) implemented the tannery relocation project but faulty plans left many things half done or absent in the new site including total waste management system and school and hospital for workers. These facilities must be completed forthwith before too long.  

Leather and leather goods such as footwear are major export items now in global market at competitive prices. It is now the second highest export earning industry after readymade garment. The country is expected to earn $1.23 billion from leather goods export in fiscal 2016-17 showing a steady rise in demands. This sector can't be allowed to suffer but at no cost to environment either. The concerned authorities must act quickly to fix the problem.

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