Toxic tannery waste triggers multiple maladies in metropolis

Air, water, soil pollution at its peak as shifting of Hazaribagh

units stalled for fund shortage

by Mizanur Rahman Khan

The tannery industries of Hazaribagh could not be shifted due to lack of necessary funds, proper policy and planning. As a result, the environment of Dhaka city is becoming seriously polluted and hundreds of people are suffering from various diseases.

A senior official in the Directorate of Environment said foam-like effluents of tanneries contain various chemicals including toxic and hazardous elements which pollute water, air and earth.

According to the sources, though a series of meetings of the senior officials of the government was held in this regard no steps were taken to shift the tanneries. The situation had been created as decisions were changed repeatedly since Pakistan period.

Hundreds of people of Jafarabad, Sultanganj, Nimtoli, Bachila, Katasur, Jigatola, Moneswar Road, Sher-e-Bangla Road, Post Office Road, Mitali Road, Rayer Bazar, Hazaribagh, Pabna Goli Road and adjoining areas of Wards 47, 48 and 49 of Dhaka City Corporation are suffering from various diseases.

Hospital sources said that a large number of people come to Shikder Medical College, BIRDEM, Dhaka Medical College Hospital and other hospitals for treatment of skin disease, fever, cough, general weakness, gastro-enteritis, asthma, diabetes and blood pressure. About 250 to 300 patients come to these hospitals every day, the sources said.

Dr Motiur Rahman, skin diseases specialist of ZM Shikder Medical College Hospital said that about 75,000 people live in this area, 10,000 of them workers and employees of tannery industries and 20,000 members of their families.

Hajera, Moyna, Sufia, Ayesha and Rahima who live by the side of the cross dam of Hazaribagh said that black spots had developed on different parts of their bodies. Their husbands work in tanneries, get small salary and live in the nearby slums. They said that a type of fly lives in the foam-like effluents of the tanneries. The bites of these flies cause high fever and spots on different parts of the body. Many of their families have already been affected by the disease.

Housewife Momena, Asma, Beauty and Labu of Rayer Bazar said ornaments made of gold, silver and other metals were being spoilt due to the discharge of tannery effluents. Electronics, TV, VCR, fridge, computer, air conditioner and even window grills are damaged due to the pollution.

When this correspondent visited Gazomahal area in Hazaribagh many people were collecting water from a tap on a heap of tannery effluent. Local people said they were compelled to collect the water as there was no other source of drinking water nearby.

Alhaj MA Sattar Bhuiyan, Chairman of Bangladesh Finished Leather & Leather Goods and Footwear Exporters Association, said that there were 207 tanneries at Hazaribagh and 196 of them were in operation. About 15000 to 16000 cubic metres of foam-like effluents are discharged from these tanneries every day in the open as there was no treatment plant.

Though work on establishing central effluent treatment plant (CETP) at the initiative of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and financed by the organisation started in February last year the work has remained stalled, he added.

Source: The Independent, 10 June,2001