Tanners demand relaxed land rules
From left, MA Majed, executive director of Apex Tannery; Mohammad Abu Taher, chairman-elect of Bangladesh Finished Leather, Leathergoods & Footwear Exporters Association; Syed A Al-Muti, programme director of the Asia Foundation; and Tipu Sultan, managing director of Bengal Leather Complex, attend a seminar on tannery relocation, co-organsied by the Asia Foundation and South Asian Network on Economic Modelling, at The Daily Star Centre yesterday. Photo: Star
Tannery owners yesterday urged the government to relax land use rules for setting up factories in the Savar leather estate.
“A significant portion of land will be left unutilised if the DAP [Detailed Area Plan] rules have to be complied with,” said Md Abdul Hai, general secretary of Bangladesh Tanners Association. “We want the land use rule relaxed.”
According to DAP, owners will have to leave at least 35 percent of total land area as free space to set up a factory.
“The proportion of free space per plot leaves too little for the factory structure as leather factories need more space to set up the heavy machinery,” said Mohammad Abu Taher, chairman-elect of Bangladesh Finished Leather, Leathergoods and Footwear Exporters' Association.
Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) has already developed the leather estate with spacious roads and adequate fire fighting capacities and equipment, he added.
The government should reduce the free area ratio of land to 15-20 percent, he said.
The leather industry stakeholders spoke at a seminar on 'Relocation of Leather Industry to Savar Tannery Estate: Way Forward for MoU Signing' co-organised by the Asia Foundation and South Asian Network on Economic Modelling (SANEM) at The Daily Star Centre.
The leather city's master plan is to be implemented over 1,528 square kilometres with the DAP indicating every structure, lake, canal, wetland, retention pond, road, open space and all topographical features, and outlines as per the authorised land use plan.
Tannery owners said they are ready to sign a deal with BSCIC to relocate the hazardous tanneries from Hazaribagh in Dhaka to Savar.
“Factory owners have already agreed to bear 20 percent of the project cost as we want to start relocating immediately, for our own survival and environment conservation,” Taher said.
Tannery owners also urged the government to allow them the freedom to use their land in Hazaribagh after shifting the factories to Savar.
“We are the owners of the land in Hazaribagh. So, the government should not impose any regulation on its use,” said Hai of Bangladesh Tanners Association.
They also stressed the need to setup a modern central effluent treatment plant (CETP) for the relocated tanneries.
“We don't want any compromise on the quality of the CETP as the future of the leather industry will depend on it,” said Tipu Sultan, managing director of Bengal Leather Complex Ltd.
BSCIC should set up an expert committee with representatives from the leather associations to oversee the effluent plant's construction and operation, he said.
“We plan to finish construction of the CETP within a year,” said SN Paul, deputy project director of the BSCIC Leather Estate in Savar.
The government will provide Tk 250 crore as compensation to the tannery owners, he said.
An inter-ministerial meeting will be held on October 9 to set policy guidelines on how the government will provide compensation and how much money each tanner will receive for factory relocation, he said.
The industries ministry has already allocated more than 205 plots on 200 acres to 155 tannery owners through BSCIC, a wing of the ministry.
The project, which took off in 2003 at an approximate cost of Tk 175.75 crore, came to a standstill over a decision on who would bear the lion's share of the cost and get the contract for a CETP.
Initially, it was planned that the 155 tanneries would finance 60 percent of the cost and the government the rest.
However, it was decided that the government would bear 80 percent of the core project cost of Tk 829 crore, as per the second revised proposal passed by the executive committee of the National Economic Council in August.
Since launch, the total project cost has shot up to Tk 1,079 crore, including the Tk 250 crore in compensation to be paid by the government to the tanneries.
The government now intends to complete relocation by 2016.
The Asia Foundation is working as a facilitator between the government and private sector to complete the relocation process as soon as possible, said Syed A Al-Muti, programme director of the foundation.
Abu Eusuf, associate professor of development studies department at Dhaka University, and MA Majed, executive director of Apex Tannery Ltd, also spoke.