Save the environment, and the leather industry too
We commend the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change for its quick move to implement a recent recommendation of a parliamentary committee to shut down the Savar Tannery Industrial Estate (STIE) in Hemayetpur. Though the complex has been in development for nine years and has had Tk 500 crore spent on it, its Central Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) is still not fully constructed (the completion deadline was 2017). According to a report by this daily, the CETP is currently only able to treat 70 percent of the around 40,000 cubic metres of waste produced by the tanners every day.
The delay in completing CETP construction has caused a number of problems. Besides causing severe harm to the surrounding environment, the complex is unable to acquire the Leather Working Group (LWG) certification which is needed to get better export prices for our leather goods on the international market. Currently, Bangladeshi leather, leather goods and tanned leather goods exporters are having to sell their products for 40 percent below the actual price, as the lack of LWG certification reflects poorly on the compliance practice of a country. Now, it seems the undesirable export situation of the country's leather goods must be forgotten in order to save the Dhaleshwari river from having tonnes of untreated liquid and solid waste dumped into it every day.
While we support the move by the environment ministry to shut down the tannery complex in a bid to save the environment, we also hope that this will not result in a complete cessation of the production of leather goods. If the CETP is constructed fully in the near future and the LWG certification is obtained, it would be ideal to revive the country's multi-billion-dollar leather industry. If that happens, not only can the tanneries operate in a more environment-conscious manner, but the industry will also attract better prices for leather goods thanks to the LWG certification.
There is hope in this regard as the parliamentary body has reassured that the issue of reopening the 130 tanneries of the STIE may be considered in the future if they operate in accordance with the provisions of the law. This is what we would urge the relevant authorities to work towards as well, so that the leather industry of the country does not die an unnecessary and preventable death.