Agra's shoe industry told to shift

About 40 shoe industry units in Agra have been again told to move out of the Taj city to the Leather Park on the Jaipur-Agra highway by the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board.

Notices have been issued to the units as a fallout of an Allahabad High Court ruling of August 2003. The state chief secretary had in October that year directed all leather shoe making units to shift out of Agra.

But nothing happened for some 10 years. The shoe units have been blamed for much of Agra's pollution and for the choking of drains in Agra. Leather cuttings are callously dumped along roads and drains which find their way into the river Yamuna.

The units had been directed to pay the required fees and seek No Objection Certificates from the Pollution Control Board but few units complied.

B.B. Awasthi, regional officer of the Pollution Control Board, told IANS: "We have sent notices and told the administration to take appropriate steps. The power supply company has also been informed.

"It is an old order. Notices were sent earlier also but few responded. Now facilities are available and they can all shift to the Leather Park to help the city become clean and pollution-free. Some units have already set up units outside the city but there are plenty more."

Pooran Dawar, a leading shoe exporter, complained that shifting was a costly affair.

He said infrastructural costs on buildings and plants and shifting heavy machinery would need crores of rupees. "Already the shoe industry is under pressure as exports have fallen and costs have risen."

Agra's share in the total production of leather shoes in India is around 30 per cent. The industry directly or indirectly employs two lakh workers.

A bulk of the total output comes from thousands of tiny and cottage units run by families.

Earlier, in 1996, hundreds of iron foundries were forced by the Supreme Court to move out in response to pollution on the Taj Mahal.

Units producing 'petha', the famous sweet from Agra, have already been told to shift to Petha Nagri in Kalindi Vihar across the Yamuna but not one unit has shifted.

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