ELAW Partners Win 20+ Year Battle for Justice

The Bangladesh Supreme Court has ordered polluting tanneries in Hazaribagh to close immediately!

Tannery operations in Hazaribagh. PHOTO: Mark Chernaik

Congratulations to ELAW partners at the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) who have worked for more than 20 years to protect communities and waterways from toxic tannery emissions.

BELA filed the original case in 1994 when more than 1,000 polluting tanneries and other industries were dumping untreated waste into the Burignaga River, which flows past the outskirts of Dhaka.

BELA Executive Director and Goldman Prize winner Rizwana Hasan took the lead.

ELAW Staff Scientist Mark Chernaik traveled to Dhaka in 1996 to meet with Rizwana and her team. He toured the tanneries operating in Hazaribagh and confirmed for BELA that the tanneries were not meeting internationally-accepted best practices.

In 2001, the High Court ordered the tanneries to install pollution control devices. Industry was slow to respond and in 2009, BELA won a court order directing tannery owners to relocate to an industrial estate in Savar, far from communities.

Relocation efforts have been slow. The Bangladesh Daily Star reports:

“Last year, the tannery factories at Hazaribagh produced every day about 21,600 cubic metres of environmentally hazardous liquid containing chemicals such as chromium, sulphur, ammonium, salt and other chemicals…The Department of Environment tested the water of the river [in January 2017] and found the waste was not treated properly.”

Last week’s court order directs authorities to immediately close the tanneries at Hazaribagh that have not relocated and sever their utility connections.

We applaud the perseverance of our partners at BELA!

For more information about ELAW’s work in Bangladesh, contact:

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director

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