The government has given Hazaribagh tanners three more months to relocate their factories to Savar Tannery Industrial Estate, as the tanners again missed the deadline -- December 31-- for doing so.
In a statement yesterday, the industries ministry said no raw hides would be allowed to enter Hazaribagh after January 31.
The decisions came as neither the government nor the tanners have finished their respective construction work at the tannery estate.
Earlier, the ministry had set several deadlines for shifting the factories to Savar from Hazaribagh but the tanners missed all of those.
Speaking at a press briefing yesterday afternoon, Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, senior secretary to the industries ministry, said the government would prevent tanners from transporting raw hides to Hazaribagh after January 31.
All the factories would have to be shifted to the tannery estate by March 31, the secretary said after a meeting with Bangladesh Tanners Association, and Bangladesh Finished Leather, Leather Goods and Footwear Exporters Association.
Of the 154 industrial plots at the estate, only 37 are now being used by the same number of tanners to process raw hides, while the rest have seen little progress in the construction of industrial units.
Visiting the Savar tannery estate yesterday, this correspondent found that construction of the Central Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) is yet to be completed.
The CETP has not yet got electricity connection, and the installation of pipes connecting one tank of the CETP to another awaits completion.
Workers hired by the contractors for the plant were seen working in full swing to complete the remaining part of the CETP.
Abdul Qaiyum, project director of the tannery estate, claimed that they have made all the preparations and are now waiting for more tanners to come to Savar and start work.
"We need around 10,000 cubic feet of waste to make the CETP functional. But we are getting around 3,000 cubic feet. We need 40 more industrial units to generate waste for making our CETP fully functional," Qaiyum told The Daily Star.
Project Consultant Prof Delowar Hossain said the CETP has four modules and eight sections. Construction of three modules -- A1, A2 and A3 -- is complete, and that of A4 would be completed this month.
"We sat with the contractors today, and they assured us that they would finish the construction work by January 17," said Delowar, professor at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.
He said experts from BUET were unwilling to accept some metal pipes brought from abroad for connecting treated water with the disinfection unit at the CETP as those were not up to standard.
"Those pipes are still lying at the Chittagong port. We don't want those sub-standard pipes," he said.
Though construction of the CETP still awaits completion, the authorities have been conducting its test run since November last year, using generators.
Locals allege that the air around the CETP gets heavy with foul stench whenever test run is conducted.
Asked whether untreated waste was dumped into the Dhaleshwari river next to the site, Prof Delowar said he had requested the officials concerned not to dump untreated water into the river, and to channel it to a pond dug at the estate.
However, this correspondent found yesterday that untreated water from the CETP was flowing into the Dhaleshwari through two pipes. Some of the liquid and solid waste was being dumped into a large pond inside the estate.
At the entrance of the estate, locals pasted posters on the estate's boundary wall which read “We will not let anyone pollute our Dhaleshwari like the Buriganga'.
Mamtaz Begum, who lives in nearby Jhauchar village, said they used to take bath in the river and use the water for household purposes. But they stopped using the river water since the authorities started dumping liquid waste into it two months ago.
"People used to catch fish in the river... We now find dead fish floating in the river," said the 55-year-old woman, who was grazing cattle on the river bank.