As the saga of tannery relocation continues, industry people fear that the country may suffer a loss of over Tk1,000 crore export orders of leather goods.
“The tanneries at Hazaribagh are going to be closed from April 6 as per the Supreme Court order. But Savar is not ready yet to start operation of tanneries though the people related with process placed false information before the court,” said Mohiuddin Mahmud Mahin, president of Bangladesh Finished Leather, Leather Goods and Footwear Exporters Association (BFLLFEA).
He was speaking at a press conference in Dhaka on Sunday, attended by leaders of 14 leather sector associations.
The associations placed six demands including a judicial inquiry into Bangladesh Small and Cottages Industry Corporation (BSCIC) which is accused of “misinforming” the court about the preparedness in Savar Tannery Estate.
They gave an ultimatum to the government to meet their demands by April 6.
Bangladesh Tanners Association (BTA) President Md Shaheen Ahmed said they will organise a mass rally in Savar on April 8 if the demands are not met by April 6.
The tanners’ demands included providing immediate connection of gas and electricity to Savar Tannery Estate, giving plots to those who has not got plot yet in the Estate, quick completion of ownership deed registration of the plots, withdrawal of embargo on passing design plan at the tanners’ land in Hazaribagh and immediate completion of the relocation process to Savar providing all facilities and revealing “truth” to the people against “BSCIC’s misinformation.”
While reading out a written statement, BFLLFEA President Mohiuddin Mahmud Mahin said: “The BSCIC had submitted false information before the court saying that the Central Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) at all the factories in Savar is ready. But we found only 50 of 154 tanneries having CETP facility while other ones are to dispose unrefined liquid waste to nearby Dhaleshwari River. This is again an environmental concern.”
He said 120 tanneries had submitted a demand note to BSCIC for gas and another 144 for electricity connections, which are yet to be met.
“Without gas and electricity, we cannot start production,” he said.
Mahin said the plot registration has not been complete yet. “But we have invested Tk2,200 crore in Savar Tannery Estate. As the BSCIC is yet to hand over plots to us through registration, we cannot apply for bank loans.”
BTA President Md Shaheen Ahmed said: “We kept our voice low in the past as environmental hazards in Hazaribagh. We felt guilty. Taking this chance, BSCIC had submitted false information about us and relocation process before the court.”
“We will submit a memorandum to the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on April 10, if the relocation process is not completed,” he added.
Efforts were made to contact Ziaur Rahman, project director of Savar Tannery Estate. Despite repeated phone calls and text messages, the Dhaka Tribune failed to reach him for his comments on the matter.
On March 30, the Supreme Court asked the owners of Hazaribagh tanneries to stop all kinds of operations there by April 6.
In July last year, the Appellate Division asked every tannery to pay Tk10,000 per day for damaging and polluting the environment.