Tannery industry in Hazaribagh is a Threat to the Environment
Leather industry in Bangladesh is one of the most profitable and significantly important sectors no doubt. It is the fourth largest foreign exchange earner of the country contributing about six per cent of total export earnings. At the first sight, it may be viewed as one of the most promising and contributing sectors in the economy. The economic benefit produced by the tannery industry to the economy as well to our society can be measured, but the damage made by this industry to the environment as well as to the society cannot be measured by any scale.
In the early twenty, this industry started its walking in Hazaribagh. According to the ministry of industry, there were only 30 tanneries owned by west Pakistani businessman in Hazaribagh during 1965. There are about 270 tanneries in the whole Bangladesh. The significant portions of the tanneries (90% of 270) are located in Hazaribagh, a very densely populated area in the megacity of Dhaka in Bangladesh. This industry is located in 25 hectares of land in Hazaribag. There is no denying that most of the urban-based industries in Bangladesh pollute environment. Of them, tanneries do the extreme damage. It has devastating effects on environmental factor like water, soil, air, plants, human beings and other ecological factors. Water in the river Buriganga is like more than poison that is black in color. The physical look and smell of the area is frightening and intolerable.
In a survey of UN Food and Agriculture Organization, it has been identified that more than 7.70 million liter liquid waste and 88 MT solid wastes are produced by this industry everyday only by the tanneries located in Hazaribagh. So think, if these wastes are thrown to the river every day, what will happen to its aquatic plants? Many chemical like sodium sulfide, sodium metabisulfite, sulfuric acid, basic chromium sulfate, acid dyes and formic acid that are very detrimental to the environment, are mixed into the water and soil. The liquid waste causes immense harm to the fish and other living spices in the water. The situation of the environment gets worsened during the rainy season. Each and every business (as per law of labor) should provide the safety of their employee. But the workers who use these chemicals do not have any protective masks and training for using it. They regularly inhale the poisonous and dying agents. That’s why most of them are losing their longevity and are being affected by many incurable and dreadful diseases like skin cancer, bronchitis, agama, high blood pressure, dermatitis, skin lesion etc. Many of them have lost their fingers to run the machine and many workers have almost lost their sight to use the poisonous gas in the process.
The polluted air often causes diarrhea, stomach problem and nausea when it goes into human body. Chemical analysis suggests that tannery wastes are characterized by strong color, high biochemical oxygen demand, high PH and high dissolved salts. Disposal of these wastes into water course or onto land, with or without prior sedimentation, creates a great problem in the environment in the vicinity. During the dry season the waste water is flushed out into the river causing pollution of the river water and affecting the aquatic flora and fauna further. The dumping of the solid wastes is seriously affecting the soil and plants, besides vitiating the air, groundwater and human health. Talking to several people of Hazaribagh, I have gathered a terrific experience that they use the river water for domestic purposes in the dry season when there is a lack of water. As a result, they are also facing food poisoning. Above all, the total environment of this Hazaribagh area is no more suitable for healthy living. Rather, the basic elements of the environment are almost ruined.
The Dhaka city dwellers want to get rid of this unhygienic ecology. If this situation goes on, Dhaka will soon be a rejected city. Although our government has taken an initiative to relocation of tannery industry from the Bangladesh capital city’s Hazaribagh to suburban Savar, it is being delayed for years since the government is yet to set up a common effluent treatment plant (CETP) at the new site. The cost of shifting and the unwillingness of the owner and the mortgage bank are the basic drawbacks for shifting. Besides a lot of families are now dependent on this industry. It is difficult for them to be shifted there. We all expect improve leather processing technologies that will cause least pollution because nobody want to breathe in the poisoned air. So the government should take some pragmatic steps so that environment is saved to save human beings.
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