It is sad but true that the Savar Tannery Industrial Estate (STIE) in Hemayetpur has defeated the very purpose for which it was established. In fact, it is wreaking exactly the same kind of havoc on the Dhaleshwari river that the Hazaribagh tanneries had wreaked on the Buriganga before being moved to the estate. It is, therefore, not surprising that the parliamentary standing committee on the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has recommended that it be shut down because the capacity of the Central Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) is incomplete in every respect, including its capacity to treat effluent—it being able to treat less than 70 percent of the waste produced every day.
The STIE has been in the headlines over the last several years. The tannery estate has become a very good example of poor planning and execution. The estate is far from being completed yet. For example, the CETP has not been completed even after nine years since the project was taken up in 2012. Yet, most of the around 160 tanneries have been shifted to the estate initially with no treatment facilities at all. Can the Dhaleshwari withstand the burden of 15,000 cubic meters of untreated waste, including all the solid waste, being dumped into it every day?
We forget that these rivers are the main lifeline of the major conurbations. The Buriganga is all but dead, and the Dhaleshwari faces the same fate. But was it inevitable? Why should it have taken nine years and counting to complete a CETP project? Was it necessary to shift all the tanneries and overburden the CETP? What has happened—as a consequence of bad planning and even worse execution of the plan—is that not only has the environment, including the two major rivers skirting the capital, been seriously endangered, but the leather industry, a budding sector that has added to our export basket, also faces a severe threat. Presently, because our leather industry has not been given the certification by the Leather Working Group, our leather products are fetching 40 percent less price in the international market.
However, we wonder if it would be advisable to close down the estate completely. And we in no way want to convey the impression that the parliamentary committee's recommendation is not justified. That notwithstanding, we suggest that the newly formed government company, which has taken over the task of completing the CETP, should get on with completing it as quickly as possible. We would hope that the planners would keep in mind the future production level of the tanneries so that the CETP does not become dated by the time it starts working at full capacity. Meanwhile, the tanneries should be asked not to overburden the current capacity of the plant.