A news report on tannery waste being secretly dumped into river appeared in Prothom Alo on Wednesday, 15 September 2021. As per the law, tannery waste is to be treated before being disposed into the river. But Prothom Alo investigations found several tannery owners in the Savar tannery industrial estate dumping the untreated waste into Dhaleshwari river through pipes in the dark of the night.

The decision to relocate the factories from the capital’s Hazaribagh to Savar was taken in 2003 but it took nine years to start the process. There was no effluent treatment plant at Hazaribagh was so tannery waste was directly dumped into Buriganga river. An effluent treatment plant was built at the Savar tannery industrial estate at a cost of Tk 5.47 billion (547 crore) though the factory owners raised questions about its quality.

Factory owners and locals have been raising a myriad of allegations since the tannery factories were relocated to Savar on 6 April 2017. Infrastructure and opportunities required for the industrial estate have not been ensured. On the other, there are several instances of the industrialists violating the laws, dumping the waste into the river through pipes at night. During a visit at night, the Prothom Alo correspondent found untreated waste being disposed though pipes, but no sign of the pipes was found in the morning. This is not only destroying environment but also killing fish and freshwater dolphins in the river. People are afraid of using the river water since tannery waste has contaminated the water excessively.

The Hazaribagh’s tannery industry was relocated to save Buriganga river. Now the Savar’s tannery industry cannot be allowed to destroy Dhaleshwari river. It amounts to killing the river. Previously, the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) strictly fined the factory owners, but the owners filed a petition with the court putting the penalty on hold. Even the parliamentary standing committee on environment, forest and climate change ministry recommended suspending factory operations, but this was not followed either. Several factory owners continue to violate the laws. BSCIC’s fine or the parliamentary committee’s warning – nothing stops them. Tanners cannot dump waste into river at the excuse of effluent treatment plant not functioning. They must operate factories in compliance with the law.

It is also true that not all tannery industrialists are involved in such crimes. The tannery owners’ association should take action against the factory owners concerned. Polluting and killing the river cannot continue because of a few factory owners. And BISCIC cannot dispense its responsibility simply by handing over the industrial estate to the factory owners either. If there is any infrastructural problem, it must be resolved immediately.

The Department of Environment claimed the factory owners did not have environmental clearance. The factory owners, on the other, said the BISCIS did not meet their demands. This lack of coordination among these three parties will damage the environment and have a detrimental effect on the local resident’s lives. This cannot be tolerated anymore. Those who discharge untreated industrial waste into river must be brought to book. And these disastrous actions that kill the river and destroy the environment in the name of the leather industry, must stop immediately.