South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

On 19 May there is a rare chance for accountability for the massive health problems caused by Bangladesh’s toxic leather tanneries, reports the Human Rights Watch.

It mentioned that the country’s High Court has summonsed the secretary of the Industries ministry to explain the ministry’s failure to relocate 150 or so leather tanneries out of Hazaribagh, a heavily populated, and heavily polluted, residential neighborhood of Dhaka.

Residents of Hazaribagh slums complain of illnesses such as fevers, skin diseases, respiratory problems, and diarrhea, caused by the extreme tannery pollution of air, water, and soil, an HRW press release added.

The International rights watchdog further said the High Court is entirely justified in demanding the government explain why the relocation process has dragged on for so long. Fourteen years after the court ruled that the government had to ensure the tanneries installed adequate means to treat their waste, the ministry has only delivered a string of broken promises: the Dhaka Tannery Estate, a relocation site 20 km west of Dhaka, was initially supposed to be ready in December 2005, then December 2006, then June 2010, then June 2012, then December 2013. The ministry will almost certainly miss its current deadline of June 2015.

The release also stated that while the High Court’s move to summons the secretary of the Industries ministry is welcome, the truth is that even if the government complies with its order and moves all the tanneries out of Hazaribagh, the child labour and occupational and environmental health dangers in the industry won’t go away unless Bangladesh gets serious about enforcement.

Moving the tanneries from Hazaribagh is long-overdue, but unless laws are finally enforced this step will do little to help affected communities or tannery workers.



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