The industries ministry has finally permitted two companies to set up their own ETPs in Savar Tannery Industrial City. Though this is good news, the reason behind this is frustrating. A Central Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) was supposed to be set up in order to manage waste of all factories in the tannery industrial city, but the plant has not finished in eight years. Due to the lack of proper waste treatment and drainage, the environment around river Dhaleswari and adjacent areas is seriously being polluted.
The locals in the area have been complaining of pollution for long. Tannery waste pollution has long been highlighted in the media too, but the concerned government authorities did not take any initiative to address this. At last, Apex Tannery Ltd and Bay Tanneries Ltd sought the ministry’s permission to set up ETP on their own to treat and manage their factory wastes. The industries ministry reportedly gave them a nod after 24 to 30 months.
Bangladesh has a frustrating history in waste management. River Buriganga got seriously polluted as there had been a tannery village in densely populated Hazaribagh in the capital. Though, in 2003, a project was undertaken to relocate tanneries to Hemayetpur of Savar, it actually took place in 2017. Then, it was discovered that the river Dhaleswari began being polluted the same way the Buriganga was contaminated due to the tannery waste.
All this happened due to neglected waste treatment and drainage. As much as Tk 6.4279 billion was allocated for setting up a CETP and an overall waste management infrastructure for 155 tanneries. A Chinese company was handed down the work order in March 2012 for executing the task in one and a half years. Till 2020, the dumping yard has not been even completed. Dhaleswari along with its adjacent areas are being polluted due to this.
Tannery waste management is not only crucial for environment, but also for commercial reasons. The tannery industry of a country does not receive international recognition if it does not follow proper waste treatment procedures. Big brands do not buy such industry’s leather goods. It’s crucial for tannery companies to be certified by the internationally recognised Leather Working Group (LWG) for export.
Apex Tannery Ltd said it was compelled to take the initiate to construct an ETP as the CETP was not completed. The company is in trouble as it has already invested Tk 2.5 billion in business. It has no alternative but to set up its own ETP despite a high cost.
Bay Tanneries had invested in tanneries jointly with Taiwan’s famous company Teh Chang. After waiting long for the CETP to be finished, the foreign company finally withdrew its investment here. Bay Tanneries then took the ETP imitative on its own. The solution does not lie in two companies among 155 setting up own waste treatment systems, rather in completing the CETP fast.