Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia is to lay the foundation stone of the much talked about Tannery Industrial Park in Savar on February 15 this year. The government has already acquired 200 acres land to set up the park with an estimated cost of US$48 million.

The government has taken up the project to relocate the tanneries from Hazaribagh to Savar. However, it will take some ten years to build up the proposed park and relocate the industries there, sources concerned said. The government plans to bear 43% of the total cost, while 57% of the cost will be covered through a loan to the tanners, sources added.

A Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP), costing about US$ 1.3 million, will be set up to reduce the amount of heavy metals from the effluents. Facilities such as water, gas, electric supply, and a solid waste management system are to be provided by the government free of cost under the project.

However, in the meantime, the project has run into rough weather as the tannery owners and Bangladesh Tanneries Association (BTA) have placed various demands and conditions, which the government is not in a position to meet. There are many unresolved issues such as compensation for relocated workers, health

Bangladesh has a total of 270 registered tanneries, out of which 149 are concentrated on a 25 hectare patch of land in Hazaribagh, a densely populated area in the capital on the banks of the river Buriganga. Over the last 50 years, the Hazaribagh tanning industry has grown into an environmental and health menace. According to data provided by some environmentalist organisations, nearly 21,000 cubic meters of untreated toxic wastes are discharged into the canals and directly into the Buriganga River each day from these tanneries. Low oxygen content of the river water as a result of the discharge has made it difficult for aquatic life to survive.