Non-compliance hurting leather export earnings
The issue of non-compliance by tanners is costing the industry and export earnings heavily. Because the tannery industry in Bangladesh is viewed as one that fails to meet safety standards when it comes to treating harmful effluents before discharge into rivers and a lack of solid waste management, our leather products do not comply with LWG (Leather Working Group) standards, and leather products from Bangladesh are sold at 30 percent less than global prices. This is a huge loss for the industry and the economy. But why? Why is it seemingly impossible for authorities to get the ball moving in the right direction when it comes to setting up and commissioning the central effluent treatment plant (CETP), a project initiated five years ago in 2014 and still hasn't been completed.
We have written on this subject endlessly over the last so many years and yet, knowing full well what harm it is causing to the environment, authorities fail to take any action against the contracted company that has consistently failed to deliver. When we take into account the fact that Tk 700 crore has already been spent, one would have thought that the CETP would be done by now. Unfortunately, anything to do with land acquisition and infrastructure building in Bangladesh appears to take years to complete. In the meantime, the fallout of not having a functional CETP is continued degradation of the Dhaleshwari River and selling leather goods at subpar prices in the international market.
Again, since no permanent yards have been set up for solid waste management, waste and sludge from factories end up in a temporary dumping ground—which is also polluting the environment. Given the sorry state of progress in commissioning the CETP and waste management system, Bangladesh will continue to fail to meet LWG's conditions and the industry will be forced to keep exporting leatherware at a much lower value.