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BSCIC Tannery Estate in Savar: Long way to LWG compliance

BSCIC Tannery Estate in Savar: Long way to LWG compliance

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Currently, Bangladesh can only export to China. Without the Leather Working Group (LWG) compliance, entrepreneurs will not be able to export leather and leather products to US and EU

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Ariful Islam Mithu

Publisted at 3:55 PM, Fri May 24th, 2024

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The peak season for rawhides in the country, Eid-ul-Adha is less than a month away. The leather sector of the country has huge potential for export earnings. However, due to not meeting international compliance, Bangladeshi leather entrepreneurs are solely dependent on China for export.

In 2017, the government shifted the tannery factories from the capital’s Hajaribag to Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) Tannery Estate in Savar 

However, the Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) at the tannery estate was set up on a faulty design. 

The CETP there is still disposing polluted water in the Dhaleshwari River and polluting the environment.  

The authorities said that they have improved the efficiency to some extent but it is not 100% efficient. 

If the tanners do not maintain international Leather Working Group (LWG) compliance, they will not be able to export leather and leather products to European countries. 

The CETP has now become the foremost problem for the leather industry in the country. 

Dhaka Tannery Industrial Estate Wastage Treatment Plant Company Limited Managing Director Golam Shahnewaz told Bangladesh First they have improved the efficiency of the plant over the last six months but still, they have to dispose of polluted water into the river.  

“100% efficiency is not possible because the existing CETP have a faulty design and capacity is limited for processing the leather wastewater,” he added.   

He said that when the Chinese contractor handed over the project to the BSCIC authorities, the Chinese contractor said that the capacity of the plant was 25,000 cubic metres.

However, the LWG said that the capacity of the plant is 14,000 cubic metres. 

Savar tannery estate has approved four businesses to install their own Effluent Treatment Plants. 

The Government has decided not to allow rawhide from other districts to enter Dhaka after seven days of Eid and asked the tanners at the estate to run their factories at 60% of capacity.  

The current condition 

Golam Shahnewaz said that they have made some improvements in the wastewater treatment plant. 

“For example,  the chromium separation unit was shut for more than one year. At the end of February, we had run 50% of the chrome unit. The rest of the 50% of the unit will be starting after the Eid-ul-Adha,” he added.

He said that the level of chromium has already come down; in January, it was 30, in March 7.5 and in April 4.85.  

“The situation is better than the last Eid-ul-Adha. It is a continuous process and some of the improvements have already been seen. We are getting the benefits,” Golam Shahnewaz said.

The Department of Environment monitors the water quality of the river on six parameters. 

Golam Shahnewaz said they can now meet the quality of three parameters and he said that the plant is now 40-50% efficient. 

“If we do some work, we think the plant will be 60-80% efficient after the Eid. It will need design correction and modern technology to make it 100% efficient. Now our challenge is to meet the standard of the Department of Environment,” he added. 

“Permanent solution will be achieved only when each and every tanneries set up their own chromium recovery unit at their factory. It will cost the tannery owners between Tk25-40 lakh,” he further said.

They will gradually increase the efficiency of the existing CETP. In the meantime, they will go for a new project under the Public Private Partnership model.

There is no visible improvement in the solid waste management. The tanners are dumping the solid waste in the dumping yard on the premises of the leather estate. 

Golam Shahnewaz said that if the tanners recycle solid waste then pollution will go down. 

However, the dumping yards of the tannery estate are full. To tackle the pressure of incoming rawhide and process, the authorities have decided to dig a pond on the premises of the estate.  

“We will dig two ponds for solid waste dumping. The tannery owners can dump their waste in the pond to tackle the Eid situation”, said Golam Shahnewaz further said.

Entrepreneurs facing uncertainty

Bangladesh Finished Leather, Leather Goods and Footwear Exporter Association Senior Vice Chairman Diljahan Bhuiyan said as the CETP is not fully functional and as a result, they are not getting the LWG certificate - leaving them unable to export to US and EU countries. 

He said that during Eid-ul-Adha, the amount of water waste increases to 40,000 cubic metres; however, the capacity of the CETP is 25,000 cubic metres. 

To keep the wastewater under control, the CETP authorities have asked the tanners not to run at their full capacity on the occasion of the Eid-ul-Adha, he added.

“Now the authorities have proposed to us that we run our factories at 60% of our capacity during Eid. We will not be able to complete the wet blue process within three months. We are facing uncertainty,” said Diljahan Bhuiyan. 

He said that if they have to process the 40% after three months, then a huge amount of leather may be damaged. 

“If we had a cold storage facility in every division and town, then we could keep them in the cold storage, but we do not have the cold storage facilities for leather,” he added.

“As most of the tanners do not have LWG certification, they are compelled to sell the leather to Chinese companies. However, Chinese companies do not pay a fair price,” Diljahan Bhuiyan further said.

BSCIC has been allowed to set up ETP and Chromium recovery plants but the tannery owners said that they could not set up ETP due to lack of money to invest in it.

“They are putting things that they are supposed to do. We will have to spend around Tk2 crore to set up an ETP,” said Diljahan Bhuiyan.

The tannery estate has provided land to 140 tanneries. Of them, around 60 factories run in the peak season of Eid and around 30 tanners run their factories all around the year.

Policy support needed

University of Dhaka’s Institute of Leather Engineering and Technology Director Professor Mohammed Mizanur Rahman said the leather sector has a huge possibility because artificial leather cannot be an alternative to natural leather.

“We will have to upgrade the CETP, there is no alternative to it. Even on upgrading the CETP, they will be able to get the Leather Working Group’s LWG certificates unless they do pre-treatment of the waste,” he added.

“If you make the CETP 100% efficient, they will not get any compliance certificate from the LWG because they have not done anything regarding solid waste management yet,” Professor Mohammed Mizanur Rahman said.

“The government will have to outline plans for the solid waste management. Still, there is no initiative taken for the solid waste management,” he added.

The academic said the government will have to set up more CETP in the leather estate, adding, “The existing CETP cannot even process water waste from even 30 tanneries, how will it process when all 135 tanneries start operation? I think three more CETPs will have to be set up here.”

Government also needs to provide the tannery owners with policy support, he further said.

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