Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu yesterday asked the tannery owners to complete relocation of hazardous factories from the capital's Hazaribagh to Savar by March next year.
“The tannery owners should start producing environment-friendly leather and leather goods in Savar Leather Industrial Park by April 2015,” he said.
The construction of a central effluent treatment plant, a key component of the project, will be completed by that time, Amu said after visiting the under-construction CETP in Savar.
The visit was part of an event organised by Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC), the tannery owners and the Asia Foundation.
The country will be able to produce high quality leather products and maintain ecological balance at a time once the CETP starts functioning, he said.
The government is promoting leather, leather goods and footwear exports, as the industry has the potential to grow into a revenue earner like the apparel sector, Amu said.
“We are planning to initially relocate the wet blue section by March as it produces 70 percent of the total tannery waste,” M Abu Taher, chairman of Bangladesh Finished Leather, Leather Goods and Footwear Exporters' Association, told The Daily Star.
The wet-blue section of a factory processes rawhide and is a major pollutant of the industry.
The tannery owners should start the relocation keeping the issues of environment protection and export potentiality in mind, said Anwar Hossain, environment minister.
“Pollution from the tanneries has made Dhaka City almost unlivable,” he said
Bangladesh faces a deadline to cut the tanneries' toxic pollution by the year-end, to be able to continue exporting leather or leather goods to the European countries.
The industries ministry has already allocated plots on the 200-acre leather estate to 155 tannery owners through BSCIC, a wing of the industries ministry implementing the project.
A total of 148 tannery owners have submitted their factory layout plans, of which 112 plans are already approved.
Around 15 tannery owners have already started construction of their factories in the industrial park, according to industry insiders.
Md Qamrul Islam, food minister, emphasised proper coordination among the leather entrepreneurs, BSCIC and different government agencies to expedite relocation.
The leather industry has crossed the record $1 billion mark in exports for the first time in history in the first 10 months of the current fiscal year.
Between July and April of the current fiscal year, the leather industry exported $1.06 billion of products, whereas the export receipts for the whole of 2012-13 stood at $980.67 million, according to data from the Export Promotion Bureau.