Bangladesh orders tanneries to relocate from capital in 72 hrs

Bangladesh today issued a 72-hour deadline to over 150 tanneries in the capital's Hazaribagh area, one of the world's most polluted places, to either relocate or face closure.

"The government will close down the (tannery) units on expiry of the 72-hour deadline unless they shift to their designated plots at the leather park at (suburban) Savar," an industry ministry spokesman told PTI.

He said an urgent order was issued asking the tannery owners to relocate their units to Savar where the government previously allocated them plots on a 200-acre leather estate, warning their allocation would be scrapped if they failed to comply with the directive.

The spokesman said the order was issued following a meeting with Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu and it was issued to the owners in the form of a "legal notice".

The tannery industry leaders earlier said they would have to invest around USD 77 crore (Tk 6,000 crore) to relocate the factories, set up new plants and begin commercial production.

Following a 2001 High Court verdict, the government had taken a tannery relocation project to shift the tanneries to a new and eco-friendly estate at Harinbari in Savar at a cost of USD 22 crore (Tk 175.75 crore), an amount which subsequently was enhanced to Tk 545.36 crore.

According to the Memorandum of Understanding with the government, the tannery owners were supposed to shift their units to Savar's Leather Industrial City from within December in 2014 while the deadline was extended until December 31, 2015.

Zurich-based Green Cross Switzerland and New York-based Blacksmith Institute earlier listed Hazaribagh area as one of the top 10 polluted places on earth.

Hazaribagh came fifth on the list of top 10 polluted places.

Previous reports suggested at least the toxic chemicals like chromium used by the industry exposed to sickness at least 160,000 people.

The reports estimate that the sites put more than 200 million people at risk in low and medium-income countries as a range of pollution sources and contaminants, according to a statement.

"Once the lifeline of Dhaka, the Buriganga is now one of the most polluted rivers in Bangladesh," the UK-based 'The Guardian' said recently as it ran a photo feature on Hazaribagh under the caption "The river runs black: pollution from Bangladesh's tanneries".

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