Savar tannery estate must shut down

The environment ministry yesterday agreed to its watchdog’s recommendation to shut down the Savar Tannery Industrial Estate immediately as it has been running without environmental clearance for the last 10 years and it lacks the facilities to treat all its liquid waste.

In a meeting at the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban, the parliamentary standing committee on the ministry also recommended that the estate in Hemayetpur, on the outskirts of the capital, should not be allowed to operate until it gets a fresh clearance.

Environment Minister Md Shahab Uddin, who was present in the meeting, agreed with the JS body and said they would work in line with the recommendation on shutting down the estate soon.

After the meeting, Saber Hossain Chowdhury, head of the parliamentary committee, said the tannery estate has been running without any environmental clearance for 10 years and has been causing severe pollution to the environment.

“In presence of the minister concerned, the meeting decided that the estate will have to apply for fresh environment clearance. But before that, it will have to shut down immediately. It won’t be allowed to operate anymore,” said Saber, a lawmaker from the ruling Awami League.

He said the estate would be able to go into operation again only after getting the clearance upon meeting all necessary requirements.

“Today’s [yesterday’s] decision is that the Savar Tannery Industrial Estate will have to shut down without any delay and it is the final decision. The environment minister also agreed … .”

He said the environment ministry would now write to the industries ministry and the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC), asking them to shut down the estate.

Talking to this correspondent, Environment Minister Shahab Uddin said he agreed to the recommendations of the parliamentary committee.

“The ministry will send a letter to the industries ministry and the BSCIC in line with the decision [taken yesterday],” said Shahab, also a member of the JS body.

Contacted, Jakia Sultana, secretary of, industries ministry, said they would take necessary measures after receiving the letter from the environment ministry.

On August 23, the parliamentary body recommended shutting down the estate due to widespread pollution of the local environment.

According to statistics placed before the standing committee, the estate has the capacity to treat around 25,000 cubic meters of liquid waste every day, but the tanners generate around 40,000 cubic meters of liquid waste per day.

That means 15,000 cubic meters of liquid waste are dumped into the Dhaleshwari without any treatment, causing severe pollution.

In 2003, the government took the initiative to build the BSCIC Tannery Industrial Estate on 200 acres in Hemayetpur after moving all tanneries from the capital’s Hazaribagh in order to prevent environmental pollution and to protect the Buriganga.

Saber Hossain yesterday said the most alarming matter is that the estate does not have any facility to treat solid waste, including heavy metals and chromium.

The waste is being dumped into the Dhaleshwari without any treatment, causing pollution and severe harm to the environment, he said.

In the last three years, the estate has dumped around 1.60 lakh cubic meters of waste into the river, Saber Hossain said, quoting statistics from the Department of Environment (DoE).

There are around 160 tanneries in the leather industrial park, sources at yesterday’s meeting said.

Tanneries and backward and forward linkage industries related to leather goods were accommodated in the new industrial park after it was moved from Hazaribagh in 2003.

On September 9, the DoE served a show-cause notice on BSCIC. It asked BSCIC to respond by September 20 as to why the site should not be shut down as per the parliamentary standing committee’s recommendation.

About the notice, Saber Hossain said the industries ministry has formed a task force in this regard. “Let the task force work on the compliance issue,” he said, adding that the tannery industry would have to shut down until it becomes compliant.

Following a recommendation from the standing committee, the meeting yesterday also decided to declare tourist destination St Martin’s Island a “no smoking zone”.

Besides, the parliamentary body asked the ministry to ensure food for elephants where they are living now in Ukhiya and other parts of Cox’s Bazar so that they don’t have to come to localities in search of food.