The government has decided not to allow tanneries to bring in rawhides to Hazaribagh from April 1 as part of its efforts to save the Buriganga river from pollution.
The decision came at an inter-ministerial meeting chaired by Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan at his office yesterday.
The restriction will force tanners to stop buying the rawhides, which will affect the entire sector, Shaheen Ahmed, chairman of Bangladesh Tanners Association, told The Daily Star.
The meeting also decided to take steps to save the Buriganga, the Shitalakkha, the Balu and the Turag rivers, the shipping ministry said in a statement.
Industrial waste is the major reason for the pollution of rivers surrounding the capital.
Of the 60 percent of the industrial waste that is drained into the four rivers, 40 percent come from the tanneries located in Hazaribagh.
Crash programmes will be taken in order to stop the pollution of the rivers, according to the statement.
Combined efforts will be taken through coordination among different ministries and departments with the shipping ministry playing the role of the lead ministry.
The meeting also decided to raise public awareness against the river grabbing and pollution and enforce the law.
The Bangladesh Navy will prepare a concept paper on the river grabbing and pollution within the next one month. Further steps will be taken on the basis of the paper's recommendations. With the view to saving the rivers and boosting the leather sector's export prospects, the government has allocated a dedicated industrial park in Savar.
But the issue of relocating the tanneries from Hazaribagh to the park has been dragging on for years.
Industry insiders said the factories could not be relocated in the last decade due to wrangling between the government and the tannery owners over who would bear the project costs and a long legal battle between the two sides over awarding a contract for the central effluent treatment plant.
Earlier in January 10, the industries ministry set a 72-hour deadline for the tanneries, with threats to shut down the polluting factories if they fail to relocate to Savar within the stipulated timeframe.
The ministry had also instructed state-run Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation to serve a legal notice on the tanneries immediately.
Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu even sounded out a strong warning to the tannery owners then, saying if they failed to shift their factories within the 72 hour-deadline the plots allotted to them in Savar will be cancelled.
Ahmed said he hopes about 40 out of the 155 tanners that have got plots in Savar will be able to move to the leather park by June this year and start production. “The majority of the tanners will relocate there by this year.”
Ahmed said the designs for the factories in Savar were only approved last year, so it is not possible to construct a building overnight. Abdul Quayum, project director of the industrial estate, said two of the four modules of the central effluent treatment plant are test-running now using water from the Dhaleshwari.
The two modules would require 12,000 cubic metres of waste to run and about 50 tanneries can supply the amount, he said. “Otherwise, we will not be able to run it.”
Quayum said about 80 percent of the plot owners are now working and more than 50 plot owners have constructed the roofs. “If they try hard, we will be able to run the CETP by next month,” he added.