The Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) has submitted a proposal to the industries ministry, seeking approval for a project that aims to make the Central Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) at the Savar Tannery Industrial Estate (STIE) fully operational. The BSCIC Chairman, Md Mahbubor Rahman, stated that the project is estimated to cost between BDT 500 crore and BDT 800 crore. One of the key components of the proposal is the construction of a solid waste management shed spanning 200 acres of land located on the south side of the CETP.
Despite previous expenditures of BDT 565 crore and nearly a decade of waiting, Bangladesh has not yet reaped the full benefits of the CETP. The facility requires significant renovation or reconstruction, as the Chinese company responsible for its construction handed over an incomplete CETP to the newly formed Dhaka Tannery Industrial Estate Waste Treatment Plant Company (DTIEWTPC) in July 2021.
In response to questions regarding potential anomalies in the construction process, Chairman Rahman expressed that further investigation would be embarrassing at this stage. His remarks came during a seminar hosted by the Institute of Leather Engineering and Technology (ILET), where the focus was on research and development for the leather tanning process and solid waste management. The event, jointly organized by ILET, the University of Dhaka, and The Asia Foundation, took place at the Nawab Ali Chowdhury Senate Bhaban in Dhaka.
The construction of the CETP commenced in 2013, but the Chinese company overseeing the implementation failed to complete the project before handing it over to the DTIEWTPC. However, Chairman Rahman remains hopeful about making the CETP functional and completing the solid waste management shed within two years, provided the project receives approval.
The absence of a fully functional CETP has significant implications for local companies, as they are unable to obtain Leather Working Group (LWG) certification. This certification is vital for attracting international retailers and brands in the leather sector. Consequently, Bangladesh continues to lose out on valuable foreign currencies, with local tanners unable to command higher prices for their tanned leathers due to compliance issues. Additionally, manufacturers of finished goods face restrictions on exporting products that use domestically produced leather.
This predicament is unfortunate for Bangladesh, as leather represents one of the few products offering exporters the opportunity for nearly 100 percent value-addition, with all raw materials readily available in domestic markets.
Moreover, the lack of a well-equipped CETP has led to environmental pollution in the vicinity of the STIE. Mohammed Mizanur Rahman, director of ILET, highlighted that proceeding with the existing CETP is not feasible due to its faulty design and outdated technology, which is no longer widely accepted worldwide.
Based on a research paper from ILET, it is suggested that the use of innovative enzymes developed by their researchers can reduce chemical usage in rawhide washing by 30 percent. Furthermore, the institute has applied for a patent for the production of biodiesel and fertilizer from rawhide waste.
Although tanners currently pay an electricity bill of BDT 1 crore for utilizing the CETP, the solid waste management facility remains operational at less than 1 percent capacity, according to Md Shakawat Ullah, general secretary of the Bangladesh Tanners Association (BTA).
Highlighting the positive aspects, Md Akhtaruzzaman, vice chancellor of the University of Dhaka, emphasized that the production of biodiesel from rawhide waste contributes to the generation of green energy. He added that the leather and leather goods industries play a crucial role in the economy and should not be hindered by bureaucratic obstacles.
Kazi Faisal Bin Seraj, the country representative of The Asia Foundation, also delivered remarks during the seminar, addressing the importance of sustainable practices in the industry.