In Pictures: The toxic cost of Kanpur's leather industry
Nauseating black smoke, an overwhelming pungent stink in the air and the sight of a snow like white foam drifting across fields and water canals; that's how one experiences Jajmau.
The industrial suburb in Kanpur houses close to 400 Leather tanneries. The Leather industry releases large amounts toxic chemicals and acidic effluents concentrated with heavy metal Chromium, Cadmium, Lead,Arsenic, Cobalt, Copper, Iron, Lead, Zinc, Manganese. All of this highly potent chemicals make their way into the Ganges.
These toxins not only contaminate the river but also seep in and pollute the soil and ground water. Most of the discharge overflows and passes into the river. The post treated water used for irrigation of farmlands in the Jajmau region of Kanpur is also found to have a devastating effect on crops and vegetables.
Studies show that the presence of these hazardous toxic metals in Ganges is far above the permissible limit by World Health Organisation (WHO) and United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA).
The contaminated water results in health hazards which include respiratory disease, renal failure, dermal problems( like rashes, boils and numbness) and blue baby syndrome.
Caught in the hell hole of the tannery pollution and environment contamination are the people of Kanpur who live at the brink of a grave ecological and human crisis. The National Green Tribunal and UP Pollution Board laid down stringent environmental regulations and ordered for closure of about 98 leather units for polluting the Ganga however that has not helped the issue.
Small scale Industry that works with leather trimmings to prepare fertilizer or chicken feed continue to pollute Ganga and the soil unabated.The Tannery owners do not want to take all the blame. They claim that the state is not doing their bit by replacing the obsolete common treatment plan or setting up a domestic sewage disposal system to treat the 400 tonnes of solid waste everyday which flows into the river.
Small tanners who choose to remain anonymous told that the current Government has ruined the Leather Business,"The Ganga pollution and 'Govansh' has targeted the tanneries business. In March 2015, Maharashtra government extended its ban on cowslaughter to bullocks. As bulls are the main source for hides, this has caused a severe shortage in the leather Industry