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Though it was all unplanned when only a few tanneries were allowed to operate in Hazaribagh area in the western part of the capital, close to Turag river, now the number has exceeded 200 over the last six decades thanks to the ministries concerned and related government agencies. Tanners wash, dry and process raw hides and skins in factories and also in the open places of Hazaribagh, which is a residential area adjacent to Lalbagh, Rayerbazar, Dhanmondi and Mohammadpur areas. The around 50-acre Hazaribagh, however, has now become a hub of chemically-contaminated area which is highly hazardous for the dwellers regardless of their wealth, let alone the poor workers at the unhygienic factories where reports say many children work and those living in slums.
All the factories at the export-oriented industrial area in Hazaribagh, however, fall under red category but have been enjoying the highest impunity with regard to pollution, workplace safety and health hazards. Not a single factory in the country’s largest leather zone has an ETP to treat the highly-toxic water before release.
Locals in Hazaribagh have also taken for granted that they have no easy option in hand to come out of the sickening situation since the government has ever been reluctant in shifting the tanneries from the city immediately – despite directives from the High Court and relentless outcry of the green groups and activists of home and abroad. We may term it “reluctance,” since the process – undertaken in 2003 pushed by the court – has stumbled several times and even in the mid-way, with the construction of a central effluent treatment plant (CETP) which will ensure that the factories at the new site in Hemayetpur near Savar would not discharge toxic waste water into the canals or rivers untreated. The process of implementing the CETP has so far taken three years to begin, while it would take at least one year to complete the construction.
In the meantime, whatever is lost is a destiny, for the local people, and the environment, mainly the river Buriganga and those in its downstream. Those who are doing the business obviously do not regret, but the dwellers of Hazaribagh and the adjacent areas are simply helpless as they have been forced to use the contaminated water and breathe polluted air.
The water species have nothing to do in this regard as the waters are carrying the poisonous chemicals and waste. The drains, canals and the river Buriganga – all have lost their ability to keep water species alive long ago!
[published on Dhaka Tribune http://www.dhakatribune.com/environment/2013/jun/05/hazardous-hazaribagh]