Bologna, Italy—Human Rights Watch warned attendees the Lineapelle leather fair (April 3 to 5) to avoid shopping some Bangladeshi tanneries which have failed to respect both national and international environmental standards.
Specifically, tanneries operating in the Hazaribagh area of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, didn’t meet environmental standards, including Bay Tanneries and Bengal Leather Complex Ltd.
Despite requirements for wastewater treatment under both Bangladeshi labor and environmental law, there is no common effluent treatment plant for tanneries in Hazaribagh to treat industrial wastewater, nor do any of the tanneries there have their own treatment plants, according to Human Rights Watch.
Last October, the Human Rights Watch released the 101-page report, “Toxic Tanneries: The Health Repercussions of Hazaribagh Leather,” which documented health problems among local residents of Hazaribagh slums. The residents there complained of illnesses such as fevers, skin diseases, respiratory problems, and diarrhea caused by the extreme tannery pollution of air, water, and soil.
The report, based on nine weeks of in-country research, also documented an occupational health and safety crisis among tannery workers, both men and women, including skin diseases and respiratory illnesses caused by exposure to tanning chemicals, and limb amputations caused by accidents in dangerous tannery machinery. Furthermore, the report described how waste water from the tanneries, containing among other substances, animal flesh, sulfuric acid, chromium, and lead, went into Dhaka’s main river, some 21,000 cubic meters of untreated tannery effluent is released every day in Hazaribagh.
Calling Hazaribagh “one of the most polluted urban environments in the world,” Richard Pearshouse, senior health and human rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, said: “Leather tanneries in the heart of Dhaka have been releasing toxic effluent into a densely populated neighborhood for decades. Foreign buyers at the Lineapelle fair shouldn’t buy products from companies that don’t abide by labor and environmental laws meant to protect people.”
According to some estimates, almost 90% of the Bangladesh’s leather and leathergoods come from Hazaribagh. China, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Germany, Spain and the United States are the main destinations for the leathergoods.