Hell for Leather, Hazaribagh

When tanneries were initially allowed to operate in the Hazaribagh area, at the western part of the capital, close to Turag river, no planning had taken place. Now, the number of tanneries exceed 200, over the last six decades, because of reluctance of the ministries concerned and the related government agencies. Tanners wash, dry and process raw hide and skin in factories, and also in the open areas of Hazaribagh, which is a residential area adjacent to Lalbagh, Rayerbazar, Dhanmondi and Mohammadpur. The nearly 50-acre Hazaribagh area, has now become a chemically-contaminated hub, highly hazardous for residents, regardless of their standard of living, and especially so for poorer workers in the unhygienic factories.

Hazaribagh, or Thousand Gardens, could not be further from its name. Lacking a single waste-treatment facility, the area is drowning in pollution. According to government figures cited in an October 2012 report from Human Rights Watch, some 21,000 cu m of untreated waste is dumped by tanneries into the Buriganga River every day. An excess of chemicals in the water and soil is taking their toll on the health of roughly 180,000 people now crammed into the area, many of whom attest to a rise in painful skin rashes and respiratory problems.