Environmental complaiance in tanneries assured

A recent report by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused tanneries in Bangladesh of’ ‘systemic human rights violations’ putting on dock an industry that has emerged as a major supplier of leather for footwear and suitcases, belts and bags in the West and South-east Asia.Bangladesh‘s leather industry is witnessing a boom in recent years and is expected to be worth $1 billion annually.
But a ‘Guardian’ report says it is “notorious for its harsh conditions and pollution”, which has received less attention than the garment industry.
The “Guardian” report says that almost all the leather processed in Bangladesh is produced from local animal hides by about 15,000 labourers in the small Dhaka neighbourhood of Hazaribagh.
It blames the tanneries for creating a “catastrophic environmental impact”, as they discharge “huge quantities of toxic waste” into the Buriganga river, which flows through Dhaka.
Residents and workers in Hazaribagh, the report says, are hoping for some global attention on the tanneries after the worldwide outrage following the Rana Plaza factory collapse brought the country’s ready-made garment industry into focus.
“Maybe that will help us,” says Jalal who has worked in the tanneries for thirty years.
European buyers of leather from Bangladesh and diplomats from European countries, have recently sought details of conditions in the tanneries from local authorities and business organisations, says the ‘Guardian’ report.
“We have been contacted by a number of firms, via the concerned ministry, looking to be reassured,” said Mohammed Abdul Hai, head of the Bangladesh Tanners Association. “We were able to tell them that any problems here will soon be resolved.”
Hai told the ‘Guardian’ that he had allayed European concern by reassuring them that the tanneries would move to a new purpose-built complex on the outskirts of the city next year. The zone will be equipped with a waste treatment plant and conditions for workers will be hugely improved.
“We [told them] that they could forget the [current] conditions in Hazaribagh because soon we are going to be based at the new site and there production will be based on international norms. We hope that within five years we will be a model industry in Bangladesh,” Hai said.
Belal Hossain, president of Bangladesh Finished Leather, Leather Goods & Footwear Exporters Association, also told the ‘Guardian’ that any concerns about environmental compliance in the tanneries “will be resolved in short time”.
But, in spite of a series of court rulings since 2001 requiring the government to move the tanneries or shut them down, the expensive relocation scheme has been repeatedly delayed. There is little sign that the land allocated for the new factories is being prepared, says the ‘Guardian’ report.
It says activists and workers express doubt that after decades of delays the move will happen soon.
– bdnews24.com

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