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Relocating the Hazaribagh tannery industry

  • Published at 03:29 pm July 30th, 2019
Tannery Pollution
Photos: Mahmud Hossain Opu

A “Yay” or a “Nay” for improving Dhaka’s climate?

When addressing climate change issues, environmental hazard involved in the processes of leather industry is often ignored. The leather industry contributes to climate change through the emitting of greenhouse gases as well as the emission of heavy metals, dyes, and acids contributing to ecological degradation. 

In order to tackle climate change, there is a need to start considering reforming the leather industry. Globally this industry accounts for nineteen percent of greenhouse gas emissions. During the various life cycles on its path to a final product, contributes to the carbon footprint. The major compounds found in wastewater from the production process are greenhouse gases. These compounds are primarily methane, nitrous oxide, sulphur hexafluoride, perfluorocarbons, and hydrofluorocarbons. 

Bangladesh is one of the world’s most climate-vulnerable countries, and its capital, Dhaka, is exposed to an array of climate-induced hazards. All of these risks affect the country’s sustainable development. Since, the early sixties, the Hazaribagh area of the capital became widely known for the booming leather industry. According to local communities, approximately two hundred leather industry flourished in the area. This industry is considered too soon to secure the position of the second-largest contributor in Bangladesh’s economy. However, exponential economic growth often brings catastrophic consequences to the environment. The Hazaribagh area, along with its surrounding area, suffered from severe pollution and health issues. The river Buriganga, (the major perimeter river of the capital), used to receive 21,000 cubic meters of untreated wastewater from these industries, accounting for forty percent of the affluent- the second most significant source of pollutants.

As of March 2017, 148 industries have been asked to relocate to Savar. However, the relocation process was prolonged due to the area’s central effluent treatment plant not being constructed even after the High Court’s verdict of relocating the industries.  Although, as per local information from 2019, the majority of the sector has transferred locations. This relocation process solved the Hazaribagh area’s pollution issue.  Moreover, the big question is, was it able to contribute to reducing the impact of climate change, or contribute to improvements in sustainability?

We all can guess the answer, and it is negative because this relocation did not even address the critical agent of climate change- Greenhouse gases. Changing the area of the source does not alter the transboundary nature of these chemicals and the impact of pollutants. No matter in which area these industries get shifted, without green-technology and eco-friendly, sustainable practices in the factories, there will not be any positive effect on climate change.  Even if these impacts are not showing any instantaneous effect on Dhaka’s climate, slowly they will, and there is no denying that. Sadly this relocation program did nothing in mitigating climate change.

Nishat is a fourth-year (final) student at the Department of Environmental Science and Management from North South University.  She is also a youth participant at ICCCAD and a keen environmentalist.

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