Strangely, the High Court order to various ministries that had been directed by the HC in July 2011 to close down factories producing poultry and fish feed using tannery waste remains unimplemented. In fact, the HC had further directed authorities to prepare guidelines within two months of that order that would monitor the use of tannery waste in producing feed. Eight years on, the HC has summoned high officials from the ministries of industries, commerce, food, health and fisheries and livestock and the inspector general of police to explain to the Court why there has been no progress and why contempt of court should not be issued on them for a lack of movement on the issue.
It is no secret that chemically treated tannery waste containing chromium is being used to produce feed that ultimately enters our food chain. This perhaps explains the liver and kidney complications that have risen steadily in the general populace. And while the use of tannery waste has been a lucrative business for both tannery owners and the feed factories, this has been at the cost of public health. The dangerous levels of chromium in eggs and poultry meat have been found in various studies and the impetus should now be on government regulators to take immediate steps to ban the practice. The crux of the problem with the tannery industry remains the safe disposal of tannery waste and this is where efforts need to be given so that the industry starts taking responsibility for the safe treatment of effluent discharge.