Daniel Lanteigne. There are about leather tanneries in the Hazaribagh district of Dhaka, the capital. Some use modest technology and machinery, but most operate as they did decades ago and release untreated toxic chemical waste near residential areas. The first thing you notice when you walk through the streets of Hazaribagh is the horrible and seemingly all-pervasive stench of tanning chemicals. According to the Department of Environment, the tanneries discharge 22, cubic meters of untreated liquid toxic waste daily into the rivers, gutters and canals that run alongside in the roads of Hazaribagh.
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Daniel Lanteigne. There are about leather tanneries in the Hazaribagh district of Dhaka, the capital. Some use modest technology and machinery, but most operate as they did decades ago and release untreated toxic chemical waste near residential areas. The first thing you notice when you walk through the streets of Hazaribagh is the horrible and seemingly all-pervasive stench of tanning chemicals.
According to the Department of Environment, the tanneries discharge 22, cubic meters of untreated liquid toxic waste daily into the rivers, gutters and canals that run alongside in the roads of Hazaribagh. Toxins are also leaching into groundwater. Business as usual in Hazaribagh. The tanneries evacuate 22, cubic meters of untreated liquid toxic waste daily into the Buriganga.
Photo: Daniel Lanteigne. The chemicals end up forming coloured ponds and lakes of toxic waste in residential areas and are causing much harm to the 20, people who work and live in the tanning district. Most are suffering from chronic respiratory problems, skin diseases and even destruction of the nasal septum. Workers process rawhides with toxic chemicals such as chromium, sulfur and manganese to name a few. They handle leather skins soaked with acids and dyes with their bare hands in poorly ventilated tanneries where often the only light coming in is through cracks and openings in the walls.
Workers stand knee deep without any protective clothing in tanning water as they transfer rawhides into another tank. With his education, Rahman was fortunate to be able to move and look for another job. For most of the people in Hazaribagh this is simply not possible — they have no choice but to work and live there. A young girl lives and plays next to a brook of tannery wastewater. The fumes released by the chemicals in the water can cause serious health problems.
Thousands of people depend on the river daily for bathing, washing clothes, irrigation of food and transportation of goods. The river has suffered extreme biodiversity loss and has now turned black.
Relocation overdue After decades of discussion on the topic, a relocation project was launched in to move the tannery district to a remote location near Savar, north of Dhaka, where all tanneries would share a Central Effluent Treatment Plant CETP as there is no room to build one at Hazaribagh. Uncertainty looms among the residents of Hazaribagh over talk of moving the tanneries to an area outside of Dhaka. The project has languished mainly thanks to bureaucratic wrangling over the compensation fund and debates over who would pay for the treatment plant.
Initially, a memorandum of agreement was signed between the government and the tanning association, stating that the government was to bear the expense of the plant. After subsequent review, the government then added a provision indicating that the tanning association would have to repay the cost of such a plant over the course of 20 years. Enforcement of such laws would have a considerable impact on the condition of the Buriganga River as well as improving the health and safety of the population.
The Buriganga Cleansing Project involves excavating 10 to 12 feet of sludge from the riverbed for a 3 km stretch and is set to last until June But sporadic efforts to cleanse the river are not enough considering that, while the project aims to remove 1, tonnes of sludge from the Buriganga riverbed each month, the tanning industry continues to feed 25, tonnes of untreated wastes and 40, tonnes of toxic chemicals into the river every d ay.
With little and old equipment, the riverbed excavation project aims to remove 3, tonnes of sludge from the riverbed. The mammoth task that has generated much skepticism in the media inches along at a snails pace. Public pressure and media scrutiny will perhaps help. Certainly, the experts are calling for action.
Over the black waters of the Buriganga, merchants unload shipments of fresh produce destined for city markets. So — for the sake of the Buriganga River, the ecosystems that depend on it, and the health of the people of Hazaribagh — all Bangladeshis and empathetic international community members should continue clamouring for the solid enforcement of relevant laws and the development of comprehensive governmental strategies that are followed through expeditiously.
The true colour of water must, after all, be clear to be life-giving.
'Removal of Hazaribagh tannery cut Buriganga pollution by 40%'
Only a few days ago, water could not pass through it due to the mindless dumping of tannery and household wastes for years, Photo: Anisur Rahman Pinaki Roy The quality of the Buriganga water in Dhaka improved to some extent after the tanneries of Hazaribagh were shut down recently. Tests by Department of Environment DoE say so and so do the people of the area. Even a few days ago, the river water was so stinky that it was impossible for anyone to stand on the banks. But now the water is not so stinky. The stench of the Buriganga, the lifeline of Dhaka city, has reduced after the discharging of liquid waste from Hazaribagh tanneries stopped and due to onrush of water from upstream in the rainy season. But experts say that a lot more needs to be done.
Bangladesh - Assistance with preparation for tannery relocation from Hazaribagh to Savar
Government Stalls on Cleanup as Workers, Residents Suffer Summary Jahaj, 17, has worked in a factory where animal hides are tanned in Hazaribagh, a combined residential and industrial neighborhood of Dhaka, since he was Around 50 other people work in the tannery, including a seven and an eight-year-old, who are employed nailing hides out to dry. The tannery pits are four-meter square tanks that hold hides and many of the diluted chemicals used to cure them. Jahaj particularly dislikes working there. We get inside, take the hides with our hands and throw them outside the pit.
The government has been pushing for a quick relocation, but it would take at least six more months to complete the process, industry insiders said. Visiting Hazaribagh area on the Eid day and the subsequent days, it was found that almost all the tanners collecting and storing raw hides at their factories, suggesting they are making preparation to process those over the next few months. The air in Hazaribagh and its adjacent areas was so thick with foul smell of blood and hides that it is difficult to breathe, especially for those not habituated with the stink. Liquid waste mixed with toxic chemicals was flowing through the drainage connected with the Buriganga. According to government estimates, some 21, cubic meters of untreated effluent is released in the Buriganga from the Hazaribagh leather industry every day. Apart from the hides, traders have also been piling bones, heads, horns and hoofs of the sacrificial animals as these parts are used for different purposes as well.
Colours of Water: Bangladesh’s Leather Tanneries
Home Bangladesh - Assistance with preparation for tannery relocation from Hazaribagh to Savar Quality and clean sustainable production is no longer a choise but a strategy requirement for a survival for the leather manufacturers. This is also a reason for long planned and eagerly awaited tannery relocation to new Savar site. Leather industry provides directly and indirectly approximately 45, jobs. Network of tanneries and leather product manufacturing units forming the leather cluster Hazaribagh has developed during last decades without proper planning and control. Therefore the Hazaribagh district is probably most congested overcrowded and polluted part of Dhaka city. Relocation of all tanneries from Hazaribagh implemented by BSCIC to a properly designed and controlled new industrial estate in Savar is practically the only feasible solution offering safe, yet economic conditions for maintaining this important business, keep several dozen thousands of labour employed and earning much needed for the national economy export revenue.