How to protect Buriganga and Dhaleshwari from tannery pollution

Buriganga Riverkeeper and Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) jointly organized a round table meeting at the VIP Lounge of National Press Club at Shegunbagicha, Dhaka on “How to Protect Buriganga and Dhaleshwari Rivers from Tannery Pollution” on 20th December, 2017 (Wednesday). Sayed Abul Maksud, Vice-President, Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) presided over the meeting, while Shajahan Khan MP, honorable Minister for Ministry of Shipping, People’s Republic of Bangladesh was the chief guest of the event.

Dr. Mohd. Abdul Matin, General Secretary, Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon ( BAPA), Md. Shaheen Ahmed, Chairman, Bangladesh Tanners Association (BTA), Md. Abdul Maleque, General Secretary, Bangladesh Tannery Workers Union, Engineer Md. Abdul Kaium, former Project Director, CEPT, Savar Tannery Industrial Estate, Advocate Manzill Murshid, Bangladesh Supreme Court,  Md. Alauddin, Former Member, National River Conservation Commission (NRCC), Kamrul Ahsan Khan, Coordinator, Bangladesh Environment Network (BEN), Australia, Mihir Biswas, Coordinator, Buriganga Bachao andolon & Joint Secretary, BAPA, Al-hajj Humayun Kabir, Councilor, Ward no 23, Dhaka South City Corporation attended the program as designated speakers. Representatives from different social and environmental organizations from Hajaribagh, Savar and old Dhaka area also took part in the discussion during the round table meeting. The program was moderated by Sharif Jamil, Buriganga Riverkeeper & Joint Secretary, Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA).                                                                                   


The speakers discussed about the acute pollution of the Buriganga and Dhaleshwari River and its surrounding areas due to faulty waste management system of tannery industries in Hazaribag and Savar. The attendees analyzed the current situation, addressed the key factors of the problem and proposed few measures to take immediately to protect the rivers from further degradation.

While addressing the issue, the honorable Chief Guest said, “To do something good one needs willingness and this government has got that willingness. But it would not be enough if the tannery owners and civil society representatives do not come forward and work together to solve these issues. The tannery industries have started their relocation being compelled by the order of honorable court, though the lack of enthusiasm of the owners already delayed it”. He added, “Buriganga is already being polluted and Dhaleshwari is getting polluted this very moment. We have to take necessary steps and raise awareness among mass people to stop river encroachment and pollution. We must provide proper support to organizations like BAPA, because they are the people who are really working towards a solution to this matter.”

He suggested, “We have to make working groups combining CSOs along with the concerned ministry and do follow ups regarding the matter. Tannery owners need to complete the relocation of their factories immediately. Residential facilities, health care have to be established for the labors and education for their children. We know tannery industry is very important for our national economy, but saving our rivers is more important than that.”

Sayed Abul Maksud, Vice-President, Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) said, tannery industry is an asset to us and it has put contribution in national economy. But river is a bigger asset; it is connected to our life. We need to take an effective initiative by coordinating every concerned person, so that the tannery industry remains as well as the rivers get protected. He also said, we must ensure the security, residential, educational and health facilities for the labors and their families.

Md. Shaheen Ahmed, Chairman, Bangladesh Tanners Association (BTA) said, “Along with solid waste management system, most of the necessary facilities for a Tannery Industrial Estate is absent in Savar. Many essential issues are yet to be addressed in the newly relocated area for tanneries. We are in a critical situation. We also want an environment friendly industrial estate and to that we have to eradicate the mismanagements. The CETP module being used here is faulty and almost ineffective. For this very reason environment, rivers and the areas adjacent to riverbanks are polluted. We do not want that. The nearby people are getting anxious and annoyed. Violence can trigger suddenly there. The Tannery Owners are ready to operate CETP in a commercial basis.”

Mr. Shaheen urged government to take effective steps immediately.By mentioning the facts of relocating tannery industries from Hajaribagh to Savar, Engineer Md. Abdul Kaium, Project Coordinator, CEPT, Savar Tannery Industrial Estate said, “to make a modern CETP in order to relocate tannery industry and ensure environment friendly production the necessary water, gas, electricity, waste treatment, and other related facilities are already in place. The process to eliminate remaining faults is ongoing. The Chrome and solid waste management facilities are yet to be put in place. Salt treatment plant needs fresh discussion. It may require 500 crore BDT more.”

Md. Abdul Maleque, General Secretary, Bangladesh Tannery Workers Union said, “The matter of workers engaged in this industry is not taken into consideration at the relocation place at Savar. The issues of their habitat, education, medical services are completely neglected. Nothing has been done for them. The roads in newly relocated Savar Tannery Estate are all running tannery wastes.  The authorities have been asked to bring these problems into light.”

Advocate Manzill Murshid, Bangladesh Supreme Court said, “According to the owners-government agreement, the transfer of tannery industry to Savar has been prolonged due to the faulty tender notice of the CETP. It seems to be the overall consideration that the owners were not mentally ready to go to Savar. But the court’s lengthy complexity of the case is over and Hazaribagh tannery industry started to relocate at Savar after strict instructions by the honorable court. We have to ensure it’s proper execution.” He said, “In many cases, the government guidelines are not being implemented due to the negligence of the district administration regarding river protection, so the government has to keep an eye on this.”

Recognizing the city’s trades, Md. Alauddin, Former Member, NRCC to take all steps to identify and resolve the faults in relocated tannery industry at Savar by forming a technical committee and identify the setbacks to take necessary actions to set up a proper Tannery Industrial park in Savar where all the stakeholders will be there in the process.”

Mohd. Abdul Matin, General Secretary, BAPA said, “tannery wastes are now processed to be used as poultry and fish feeds, which are causing cancer. These are posing a dangerous threat to the public health. So even from the ethical perspective, this life-destructing business has to be closed strongly and requested tannery owners not to sale those leftovers.” BTA President replied that it was not their fault. Mr. Shaheen Said, “They dump the waste to the recommended and managed place by the government authorities and then it goes from there!” Dr. Matin further requested him to monitor that waste management as the owners in cooperation with the government. If necessary, civil society was ready to provide help along the process.”

TThe other speakers mentioned 22 years have passed by only decision making, legal complications and negligence. We do not want to see it anymore. The discrepancies in planning and relocation activities have to be solved and technological abilities are needed to be enhanced to accelerate the relocation process.

While moderating Sharif Jamil, Buriganga Riverkeeper & Joint Secretary of BAPA summarized the discussion and mentioned following discrepancies and recommendations: 1) a solid waste management system is not available in the plant and it has to be established along with Chromium separation and salt treatment facilities. 2) Residential, healthcare facilities are needed for the labors and educational facilities have to be ensured for their children. 3) Many tannery owners did not have an allotment for the relocation yet; the allotments have to be completed. 4) There is no monitoring body for cancer generating byproducts and backward linkage industries. 5) A well equipped laboratory has to be established. 6)  Proper infrastructure for transportation is needed to be ensured. And 7) a transparent and effective public committee can work on it and take some actions.

The news of the event was published in following national dailies:

  1. New Age:
  2. The Dailystar:
  3. Observer BD:
  4. Kaler-kantha:
  5. Daily Nayadiganta: