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Dhaka Tanneries to Close Amid Environmental Concerns

Tanneries in Dhaka’s Hazaribagh district are being ordered to shut down due to their pollution risk.

Yesterday, the region’s Appellate Division upheld the High Court’s previous verdict to close the factories immediately and axe utility services, The Independent reported.

The rulings follows years of back and forth, which began in 2001. That year, the High Court demanded the government relocate tanneries to Savar, due to the discharge of highly toxic chemicals in nearby bodies of water. By 2003, the waste from more than 200 tanneries polluted the Buriganga River. The Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) then filed a petition to move the tanneries, and in June 2009, the High Court again ordered tanneries to move to Savar, to further minimize the industry’s pollution contributions. Despite petitions from the BELA and other environmental groups, the government kept prolonging the deadline.

Last December, the industries secretary announced that no tanneries would operate in the area after March 31. On Jan 3., the BELA submitted a petition stating that the High Court should not allow any further extensions on behalf of the tanneries. After a hearing on Sunday, the High Court demanded that all tanneries close in Dhaka.

Earlier this month, another official ordered 154 tanneries to pay delinquent fines in the amount of Tk 30.85 crore associated with the ongoing environmental damages they’re causing. A previous ruling ordered all factories in the region to pay Tk 10,000 a day until they moved to Savar.

Tannery groups, including the Bangladesh Finished Leather Goods and Footwear Exporters’ Association (BFLGFA), have asked to temporarily stop the order for the sake of their workers.

“My clients are yet to receive the compensation to relocate. It’s a matter of a lot of people’s livelihoods,” said BFLGLA chairman Mahiuddin Ahmed Mahin at Sunday’s hearing. “At least give us time until June.”

Despite concern over workers’ wages, the High Court denied BFLGLA’s appeal and carried out the order. The High Court notified the Department of Environment to assist with relocating tanneries, meanwhile the Bangladesh Police chief, Dhaka Metropolitan Police Chief, the home secretary and industry secretary have also been called to assist with the operation.

The Department of Environment chief is anticipated to provide an update by April 6.