Currently, 130 out of 155 tanneries are in operation at the STIE. On a regular day, the operational tanneries produce some 60 tonnes of solid waste.
In absence of the yards, all of the waste is being stored in a nearby vacant space under the open sky on a temporary basis, polluting the locality.
If this continues till Eid-ul-Azha, a severe catastrophe could ensue. That’s because in the three months centring the religious festival of the sacrifice of animals, some 180 tonnes of solid waste are produced by the tanneries each day.
The contractors supplied substandard steel for sheds meant for the yards without following the specifications mentioned in the tender, said Delwar Hossain, team leader of the consultants for effluent treatment plants (ETP) at the STIE.
The construction of the shed for one of the yards, encompassing 360,000 square feet of area, was supposed to be completed by August, he said.
The contractor has again been made to supply the specified steel, and the shed’s construction is nearing completion, which presumably will be done by December, said Hossain.
Till date, the government has allocated Tk 10 crore for the construction of the two yards, the other being 216,000 square feet in area, he said.
“I am hopeful that…by January next year we will take charge of the sheds from the Chinese construction firm.”
He also spoke of a third yard which would be constructed and run by a company specialising in processing waste and creating by-products.
The tender has already been awarded to a local company to process the waste materials, he said.
Though the solid waste is expected to eventually end up in a landfill from the dumping yards once the STIE was fully functional, Hossain apprehended that if such waste processing was not present, the two yards would likely to overflow within a year.
The construction work of the sheds for the two dumping yards was supposed to be started in March this year, said Jitendra Nath Paul, director of the STIE.
But it was delayed because of the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic. The construction eventually started in June, he said.
The government is working on plans to recycle the solid waste, said Paul.
Regarding completion of the construction of the central ETP (CETP) at the STIE, he said currently its automation and online systems were being set up.
With the construction of the CETP also facing delays, the government has started allowing individual companies to construct their own ETPs.
This is to enable them to fast obtain certifications from Leather Working Group (LWG), thereby attain proper prices from the international retailers and brands.
Due to poor adoption of global standards set by the LWG for the processing of rawhide, Bangladeshi exporters have failed to avail compliance and environmental certifications from the global body for the leather goods sector.
Bangladesh needs to obtain 65 per cent of the total marks used in the LWG certification for obtaining that in the silver category.
Of a total of 1,365 marks, some 200 should be obtained through compliance to standards by the government, including ensuring the presence of a dedicated site for tanneries, and the remaining 1,165 marks should be obtained by the tanners.
However, most of the tanners are not yet ready to comply with the LWG standards.
This leaves them with no choice but to sell leather and its associated goods such as footwear to some non-compliant Chinese factories and accept prices that are 40 per cent lower than international rates.
So far, the government has allowed two tanneries to construct their own ETPs.
The government shifted the tanneries from the city’s Hazaribagh to Savar in 2017 aiming to give a formal outlook to the leather sector which has already invested Tk 7,000 crore so far and employed nearly 50,000 workers.
But it seems the newly established STIE is still far away not just physically but also in case of proper functioning, bringing no good news for the leather business.