Despite the long-standing demand to relocate the tanneries from this densely populated area, the city corporation has not taken any tangible action as yet.
Piles of tannery wastes and discarded hides remain strewn all over the streets. The sewerage lines are clogged with tannery wastes and chemical-polluted water floods the streets. The air remains heavy with the pungent odour of raw skin and hides.
Abdul Hai, a local businessman, lost his temper when asked about these problems. “Can’t you see? The drains are clogged with tannery wastes for five years now. No one from the city corporation ever comes to clean these drains. Sometimes I wonder if we really live in an area under the city corporation,” he said angrily.
The area, with a population of over 75,000 voters, is in ward 14 of Dhaka South City Corporation. Of the voters, 41,264 are male and 33,911 female. The overall population of this area is about 3.5 lakh.
The local people said every afternoon the tanneries discharge wastes at the same time. The sewerage lines cannot take the load and the filthy water overflows into the streets.
Kamal Hossain, a local resident, said “During the rains, the water goes up to waist level. The moment you step into the water, your whole body starts to itch.”
Many residents are leaving this area due to this problem, he added.
There are four dustbins on the Sher-e-Bangla Road, between the tannery intersection and Hazaribag police station. One side of the road is covered with garbage overflowing from the dustbins, while the other side is perpetually under dirty sewerage water. The footpaths have been occupied by small tea-stalls, leaving almost no walking space for the pedestrians.
The dirty sewerage water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. “As soon as the sun sets, swarms of mosquitoes emerge. Repellent coils do not work on them,” said Nasim Mia, a local.
The tannery industry is not the only problem in this area. Many chemical shops are run in the residential buildings of Hazaribagh without any fire protection system.
On the way to Jigatola to Maneshwar Road, the footpaths are occupied by kitchen markets.
Several private universities have rented campuses in this area. As a result the overall house rent in the area has increased. To the locals, however, all these problems are overshadowed by the conditions created by the tannery industry. “The tanneries must be relocated to save our lives,” said Kazi Mohammad Nurul Alam, a local business owner.
Nizam Uddin, executive officer of Dhaka South City Corporation (Zone-3), blamed all the problems on insufficient manpower. “Due to the density of population, maintaining this area is very difficult,” he said.
However, he added, the overall condition will shortly improve.