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Bangladesh's deadly leather industry-spun1
PostPosted: Tue 16:34, 09 Jul 2013

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Bangladesh's deadly leather industry
Workers pay high price at Bangladesh export tanneries.
STANDING barefoot in toxic chromium effluent at a tannery in Dhaka's Hazari­bag district, 23-year-old leather worker Sumon fears his job is sending him a great grave.
Ten years of inhaling fumes from the chemicals used to turn Bangladeshi raw hide into soft leather for shoes to be removed in the West has given Sumon, who started employed in the tannery at 13, a shallow cough and stabbing chest pains.
"I don't like the job but I don't have any choice, I want the cash," said Sumon,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], who uses only one name,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], as he pulled freshly tanned skins out of huge barrels of blue-grey chromium liquid,http://www.nifedipinerbzzp.fora.pl/most-often-metformin-hci-1000-mg-augmentin-generic-equipment,1/korean-premium-fashion-online-shopping-spun3,2764.html#2828, which is used to process raw hide.
Cow and goat skins,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], caked in salt or still bloody from the slaughterhouse, are stacked in piles within the tannery,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], but Sumon said the stench from the raw hides is the least of his problems.
Home: When a pleasant, semi-rural district in the Bangladeshi capital, Hazaribag has become a wasteland of toxic swamps, garbage landfills and mountains of decomposing leather scraps,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], encompassed by slums where tannery workers live.
"When I first started, the chemical fumes helped me so sick I could not eat for two months, now I can not even smell them,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych]," he said. "We get no training,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], no safety equipment. Workers have to learn how to be cautious with the chemicals. I had several accidents in the beginning," he added, pointing to large, burn-like scars on his forearms and shins.
In Hazaribag district, the place to find hundreds of tanneries such as the Salma Leather Co-operation where Sumon works,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], environmentally friendly and public health costs from the rapid growth of global demand for cheap shoes are on full display.
The region, once a pleasant, semi-rural district within the Bangladeshi capital,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], has become a wasteland of toxic swamps, garbage landfills and mountains of decomposing leather scraps, encompassed by slums where tannery workers live.
Piles of smouldering trash line the banks of the nearby Buriganga, which is classified as a "dead" river after it hits Hazaribag as pollution in the tanneries has made it impossible for any fish or plantlife to survive.
Every single day, the tanneries collectively dump 22,000 litres of toxic waste,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych],[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], including cancer-causing chromium, in to the Buriganga - Dhaka's main river along with a key water supply - according to Bangladesh's ministry of environment.
A lot more than 90% of tannery workers are afflicted by some kind of disease - from asthma to cancer - because of chemical exposure, according to a 2008 survey by SEHD, an area charity,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], with local residents being nearly as badly affected.
Despite their shocking environmental and work safety records, business is booming in Hazaribag, as growing global interest in footwear coupled with rising manufacturing costs in China prompt Western buyers to turn to Bangladesh.
Leather is the country's fastest growing export, and Hazaribag's tanneries produced the bulk of the 32 billion taka (US$460mil or RM1.42bil)) price of leather shipped last year, mostly to Europe, Russia,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], Japan and China.
Workers in tanneries inhale fumes in the chemicals accustomed to turn raw hide into soft leather for shoes to be removed in the western world. More than 90% of tannery workers are afflicted by some type of disease, from asthma to cancer,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], because of chemical exposure.
Leather exports were also up 45% from July to November 2010, with shoe shipments to American markets alone up 50% in the same period, based on export bureau figures.
Eager for the leather industry - and its export earnings - to develop, the Bangladeshi Government has long turned a blind eye to the rampant pollution and terrible working conditions inside the tanneries, activists say.
"The only reason the Hazaribag tanneries are allowed to operate may be the export earnings,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych]," said Rezwana Hossain, an environmental rights lawyer. "These tanneries are operating right in the middle of the city, in the middle of residential areas and they are continuing to pollute the main river from the city, year after year.
"If you look in the environmental damage, the killing of the Buri­ganga river, the pollution from the city's water supply, the public health costs, then these export earnings don't look so impressive."
The industry's export earnings could increase significantly in the next couple of years if Dhaka can capitalise about the "China effect", said Sayed Nasim Manzur,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], managing director of ApexAdelchi, some pot venture shoe manufacturer.
Brands like Jones Bootmaker and Macy's already source shoes in Bangladesh, and many others are likely to follow, he said.
Workers processing cow hides in a tannery in Dhaka. Every day,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], tanneries in Hazaribag district dump 22,000 litres of toxic waste,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], including cancer-causing chromium, into the Buriganga - Dhaka's main river and a key water supply.
"But you can't expect to export towards the European Union if you're polluting like at Hazari­bag," added Manzur, whose factories in Savar district get their own waste treatment plants, unlike the Hazaribag tanneries.
Successive Bangladeshi govern­ments have promised to relocate the tanneries to Savar, north of Dhaka, and pledged to build a central effluent treatment plant to prevent water pollution. The relocation also aims to force tanneries, many of which will be in Hazari­bag since the 1970s,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], to setup purpose-built factories and improve safety standards for workers.
But progress has stalled, even though the federal government maintains the move may happen soon, no exact date has been set and the infrastructure in the new Savar site has not yet been completed.
The delay has not deterred foreign buyers, who're flooding the present tanneries with orders. Most of the raw hide tanned at Hazaribag is exported as semi-processed leather to shoe factories in Russia, China,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], Japan and Spain, where it's turned into shoes for the Western market.
Leather worker Sumon said the Salma tannery is becoming busier than ever. "Workers haven't seen any of the benefits, though. The factory informs us buyers pay low prices for that leatherp; they say the tannery isn't making much profit," he explained.
Sumon earns 6,000 taka (US$100 or RM310) a month for any 12-hour shift,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], seven days per week, but says his main be worried about his job is its effect on the health of his family who live close to the tannery.
"The tanneries pollute the water,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], and that we all make use of the water. We drink it,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], wash inside it. It smells bad,[link widoczny dla zalogowanych], and it makes your skin itch, but so what can we all do," he explained. - AFP

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