Home / EXCLUSIVE / Closing the Savar complex will not solve the problem

Closing the Savar complex will not solve the problem

Closing the Savar complex will not solve the problem
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The Bangladesh Environment Ministry is now pursuing action to close the Savar Tannery Industrial Estate until sufficient water treatment facilities can be put in place but this decision would cause more problems than it could solve. Tom Hogarth reviews the situation.

In August, ILM contributor Sam Setter wrote: “I have written over and again that the CETP in the Savar tannery cluster is a total disgrace. Until now, nobody in government and industry alike has been willing to look reality in the eye and take the necessary decisions. Everybody is walking around the cake, without taking a bite out of it.”

Undoubtedly, this has been the feeling across the industry from those directly involved or supporting the progress at Savar to tanners watching from afar – it’s about time. To provide some context for the irreversible effects of the tanning complex remaining open without a sufficient common effluent treatment plant (CETP), the Bangladesh Department of the Environment tells us that, in the last three years, the estate has dumped around 160,000 cubic metres of waste into the Dhaleshwari river.

This is a catastrophic level of pollution and, furthermore, fleshings and trimmings dumped into nearby fields have undoubtedly caused further issues by leaching into and contaminating groundwater. Italian bio-stimulant producer ILSA has submitted a proposal to take over waste management at the complex, with the intention of recycling it into biogas and fertilisers but, at this stage, there is no reason to believe this arrangement will materialise in time to solve the pollution issue.

After all, the government has already spent enough time sitting on or rejecting significant project proposals that would have entirely turned around the pollution disaster, producing a tannery complex that would not only be compliant with international regulations and norms, but also aid in rejuvenating the Bangladesh tanning industry and giving it credibility on the global stage.

The closure of the Savar tanning district would certainly halt continuing pollution, but it will do nothing for the businesses that made a huge investment in relocating to the site from Hazaribagh. Not only would this likely doom those businesses, but it would not solve the issue.

As Setter said: “The call to temporarily close the Savar area is a no-go as the tanneries that invested a huge amount of money to move from Hazaribagh to Savar would be bankrupt as they have huge debts with their banks, and let’s not forget they have a workforce to maintain. Who is going to maintain the thousands of families if the area shuts down?

“The government must understand that the Savar CETP is finished as it is, but it is non-functional, hence it needs to be updated and integrated. That’s why they should put money on the table to make this happen and avoid that the money lining people’s pockets!”

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|Source: Online/SZK

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