Bangladesh’s leather industry workers have urged the government to build an environment-friendly industry and ensure their rights.

“Savar Tannery Estate should be built as modern and environment-friendly. Tanneries are polluting surrounding areas and the environment isn’t safe for the workers,” Tannery Workers Union President Abul Kalam Azad told a press conference at Jatiya Press Club.

From this thriving industry, the government targets earning $5 billion by 2021, he said. “But there’s no facility for us. There’s no residence, hospital, educational institutes, rest houses, public toilets and canteens for the workers.”

Dr Oazedul Islam Khan, general secretary of Tannery Workers Union, also demanded better medical facilities for the workers, while Azad threatened to launch a demonstration if the government does not take the initiative and address the issues before Eid-ul-Azha, which falls in August.

“The government must ensure the workers’ rights by forming a safety committee and provide personal protective equipment,” he added.

Azad claimed that the problems increased after the tanneries were relocated to Savar from Hajaribagh. “The poor drainage system is causing environmental pollution,” he noted.

Bangladesh Labour Foundation (BLF) Secretary General ZM Kamrul Anam said nobody was there to prevent the use of poisonous leather wastage in fish and poultry feed. He added that the industries, commerce, labour and environment ministries have to work together to build an environment-friendly and modern industry.

“If things go on like this, the areas surrounding the tanneries and the rivers will continue to be polluted,” he said.