On Friday, October 13, 2023, the nation’s leather industry stakeholders collectively implored the government to undertake proactive measures to secure Leather Working Group (LWG) certification for factories. This certification would streamline the exporting of leather goods to prominent international companies. The primary issue is an inadequately constructed central effluent treatment plant (CETP) in Hemayetpur.

The relocation of tanneries from Dhaka’s Hazaribagh to the Savar Tannery Industrial Estate commenced seven years ago.

The initiative to transfer approximately 160 tanneries from Hazaribagh to Hemayetpur in Savar was initially devised in 2003 with an intended completion date of 2005. The initiation of the project commenced in the year 2013. The tanners have shown a hesitancy to relocate from Hazaribagh. The deadline for project completion was postponed multiple times.

In 2016, the relocation of tanneries to Hemayetpur commenced, coinciding with the incomplete building of the central effluent treatment plant (CETP).

Presently, the waste management system continues to face significant challenges, resulting in the Tannery Estate’s contribution to the pollution of the Dhaleswari and Buriganga rivers.

The failure of the Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) in the leather industry, which holds the second position in export earnings after the Ready-Made Garments (RMG) sector, has significant consequences. One of the most notable repercussions is that the factories at the Estate cannot export leather goods to reputable international brands due to their inability to obtain the necessary certification from the Leather Working Group (LWG).

Consequently, a significant portion of the exports within this industry comprises animal hide. Paradoxically, it is noteworthy that we ultimately purchase foreign-manufactured leather products derived from the hide above. Furthermore, the absence of certification results in the inability of the companies to obtain a favorable price for the hide.

As reported by industry insiders, the lack of full functionality of the CEPT at the tannery estate in Hemayetpur, Savar, is responsible for the gap. The enterprises that have obtained LWG certification are situated outside the Estate, avoiding the limitations imposed by the underperforming CETP.

Moreover, these compliant companies actively adhere to the environmental laws and regulations of the country, which is a crucial factor in obtaining the certification. The LWG certification protocol incorporates various factors, including but not limited to the quantity of water utilized throughout the manufacturing process, the characteristics of the wastewater released, energy consumption, and the management of solid waste.

Presently, the tanneries within the Estate find themselves in a predicament with limited avenues for resolution. A viable solution remains elusive despite ongoing deliberations among factory owners, high-ranking government officials, and the entity entrusted with overseeing the CETP – Dhaka Tannery Industrial Estate Waste Treatment Plant Company Limited.