Though the government has stopped rawhide supply to Dhaka’s Hazaribagh tanneries to force the entrepreneurs to shift their units to the designated industrial park in Savar, the industry insiders observed that it will take at least 5-6 more months to complete the relocation.The relocation of some 50-60 tanneries will be possible within June next, while the remaining ones within September next, the tanners noted.
Visiting in Hazaribagh on Saturday, this UNB correspondent found that tanneries continued the operation with the rawhides they stocked earlier.
However, workers expressed their frustration as they fear losing their jobs with the suspension of rawhide supply ahead of the relocation process.
A few factories have already started job cut and an announcement was made on Saturday noon in Hazaribagh areas through loudspeakers that the tannery workers will hold a protest rally at Tannery Mor at 11am on Sunday protesting the job cut in Rupali and Crescent tanneries.
Police on Friday stopped rawhide supply to Dhaka’s Hazaribagh area as the tannery owners ignored consecutive deadlines to shift their factories to Savar Tannery Estate.
General secretary of Bangladesh Tanners Association (BTA) Shakhawat Ullah on Saturday said, “We’ll need at least 5-6 months more to shift the tanneries completely.”
“It’ll be possible to shift only 50 to 60 tanneries out of 155 to the Savar Tannery Estate within June-July, while the remaining others within September,” he told UNB.
Saying that rawhide supply has been stopped without negotiations with tanners, he hoped that the government will lift the ban as rawhides are damaged in 20-25 days when preserved outside factories.
Some 5,000 to 7,000 rawhides are supplied to Hazaribagh tanneries a day.
Shakhawat, however, said as the heads of two associations – BTA and the Bangladesh Finished Leathers, Leather Goods & Footwear Exporters Association (BFLLFEA) — are now staying abroad, the owners will fix what they need to do in this situation when the duo return home on April 5.
Chairman of Bangladesh Leather and Leather Goods Manufacturers Cooperative Association Md Sikandar Miah said most of the tanneries are not ready to relocate their factories within a short time.
The relocation of all factories will need one more year, he added.
He said the leather industry will face huge losses with ban on rawhide supply to Hazaribagh that has around 200 tanneries.
Sikandar said they are thinking about waging a movement in demand for their rehabilitation.
Owner of Rahman Leather factory Khalilur Rahman said some 20-25 tanneries, including his factory, will have to be shut down as they did not get plots in Savar.
Supervisor of Helal Tannery Rashed Uddin, 45, said he is afraid of losing the job during the relocation process. “We don’t know what to do at this age.”
Wasim, a worker of Luna Tannery, said he will lose his job as his tannery did not get any plot in Savar.
He said the factories can operate for two months with the stock of rawhides they have now.
Project Director of the Tannery Estate Abdul Quayum said two units of the Central Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) of the industrial park are completely ready to go into operation. The two modules have been fully prepared since March 29 last, he added.
The CETP now can process 12,500 cubic meters of wastage from some 50-60 factories. But at least 5,500 cubic meters of wastages is needed to run the CETP. So, operation of at least 30 factories is essential, the project director said.
Only four tanneries have applied with them to start the operation of their factories in the tannery estate, he said.
The government has taken the harsh action like stopping rawhide supply as the tanners had failed to meet many deadlines in the past to relocate their tanneries.
On February 28, Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu warned that no rawhide will be allowed to be transported to the Hazaribagh tanneries from April.
Earlier in January last, the minister instructed the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) to shut down the tanneries that would fail to shift their factories to Savar within 72 hours.
The government initially took the three-year project in 2003 to set up the industrial park to relocate some 205 tanneries from Hazaribagh considering health and environmental hazards. It has allotted 155 plots at a 200-acre leather estate among tanners and provided them Tk 250 crore as compensation for shifting their industrial units.
Some 21,000 cubic metres of untreated toxic waste are released every day from the Hazaribagh tanneries into the Buriganga River, posing a serious risk to human and animal health.