Leather is a by-product, the main sources of raw material for the leather industry world-wide are cattle (including buffalo), sheep, goats and pigs, which are reared specifically for the production of meat, wool and/or dairy products. Since the Palaeolithic era, clothing and accessories have been made from animal hides. Everyone has read about the so-called “early man” who hunted wild animals for nourishment and covered himself in their skin.
Large-scale development of Bangladesh’s leather industry, one of the country’s greatest industries, began in the 1970s. According to the government, one of the key drivers of the nation’s growth is “leather goods and footwear.” The leather industry in Bangladesh produces leather-based goods such clothing, shoes, belts, bags, coats, luggage, wallets, and a few upscale items. These goods are offered for sale on both domestic and international markets. The leather industry’s fastest-growing subsegment is leather footwear. Leather Industry Bangladesh has long been producing leather and leather goods for domestic market and export. Bangladesh has historically exported semi-tanned and raw hides. Exports of leather account for a significant portion of Bangladesh’s export profits. The sector earned $1,258.82 million from leather and leather products in the 2013-2014 fiscal year, making it Bangladesh’s second-largest export sector. The export revenue for this industry was 1130, 1161, and 1234 million dollars over the following three fiscal years, respectively. But over the past few years, the percentage of this industry’s international income has been extremely low. The result of which is having a significant impact on the marginal price of leather. The cost of leather in Bangladesh has drastically decreased as a result of its low pricing on the international market.
The low cost of Bangladeshi leather on the global market is due to a variety of factors, one of which is the absence of global environmental recognition. Bangladesh is unable to keep leather exports environmentally balanced. Bangladesh’s export of leather and leather goods is not acknowledged internationally. Indigenous leather is being denied its rightful worth for this same reason. When it comes to exporting leather and leather goods, Europe is the most lucrative market, but Bangladesh is losing this market due to a lack of worldwide environmental recognition.
The majority of semi-tanned and tanned hides, leather clothing, and footwear make up around 95% of the raw hides and leather items that are sold. The European nations of Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain, Russia, Brazil, Japan, China, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, and the United States are major suppliers of leather and leather goods to Bangladesh. A certificate from the International Standards Body (ISO) and an environmental certification from the Leather Working Group (LWG), another significant organization in Europe, are required for exporting to Europe.
The Leather Working Group (LWG) is crucial to the global leather sector. This nonprofit organization has evaluated leather-related businesses globally since 2005. Their primary goal is to create a sustainable industrial system by guaranteeing that leather products are produced using ecologically friendly methods. The certification from the International Standard Organization (ISO) is extremely crucial in the worldwide leather market. Unfortunately, neither of these two organizations has Bangladesh’s certification or recognition. Bangladesh has applied for this recognition certificate since 2017, hence it is not true that it has not made an effort to obtain it. However, the worldwide certification of these two institutions was not possible since the environmental circumstances in the tanneries’ production standards are not yet in a good position.
The government of Bangladesh is making a lot of effort to stop environmental degradation brought on by leather industry waste.
To minimize pollution of the Buriganga river and promote industrial compliance, the government constructed Bisik Tannery Industrial Estate in Savar in 2003 on 200 acres of land, and all tanneries were relocated from Hazaribagh to Hemayetpur.
However, compared to the 40,000 cubic meters of liquid waste that tanneries dump each day, the facility has a daily capacity of roughly 25,000 cubic meters.
In addition, effective solid waste management has not yet been implemented in the area. But even there, the desired outcomes were not attained. shall be The Central Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) has been under construction for 19 years, however it is still not finished. The construction of the solid waste dumping facility or yard has not yet begun. The Development Policy for Leather and Leather Products was created by the Bangladeshi government in 2019. By expanding the domestic market, increasing the sector’s total export revenues to US$ 5 million by 2024, and increasing its current contribution to GDP from 0.5 percent to 1 Promotion in percentage, the policy’s main goal was to develop the leather and leather sector as a sustainable, environmentally friendly, and competitive sector. Despite the fact that this policy has been accepted, the tanneries seldom ever see it being put into practice because of the required monitoring mechanism and the uncooperative dealers. As a result, there was no improvement in the Tanzanians’ environmental circumstances.
To receive a leather working group certification, a 1365 quality verification process is completed. Bangladesh Cottage Industries Corporation (BCIC) only received 200 of these points. 100 of the marks are through CETP, while the remaining 100 are through the dump. BSIC and tannery proprietors still need to earn the final 1165 marks.
Because no one wants to purchase Bangladeshi leather due to a lack of international environmental clearance, the country’s leather and leather goods do not command reasonable prices on the international market. US and European Union (EU) brands do not purchase leather from Bangladesh. China is now Bangladesh’s primary customer, yet there are no decent pricing available. Bangladeshi leather and leather products won’t receive a fair price on the international market, and it won’t be feasible to ascertain the true price of leather in the nation, as long as Bangladesh is unable to meet ecologically friendly international standards in the processing of leather.
To ensure Bangladesh’s leather sector grows quickly and sustainably, several critical initiatives can be implemented. In order to transform Savar’s tanneries into livable, pollution-free, contemporary industrial communities with all the amenities like housing, healthcare, educational facilities, marketplaces, and business and entertainment centers, the government needs carefully carry out its plans and uphold its promise. ensuring employees, workplace health and safety, as well as other facilities, in order to boost output, exports, employment, and GDP contributions.
The Solid Waste Management System should have all modern facilities as these are essential for an eco-friendly leather industry. Action should be taken immediately to complete the water and sewage treatment system in the Leather Industrial Estate. This must include a central dumping yard, a modern CETP system, Sludge Power Generation System (SPGS), Sewage Treatment Plant (STP), Common Chrome Have to Stay Recovery Unit (CCRU), and Solid Waste Management System should have all modern facilities. An internationally renowned and technically capable agency like UNIDO may be asked to keep an eye on CETP operation and future maintenance.
Better work environments, social and environmental conditions, and more vigilance in each tannery toward enhanced solid waste management systems, cleaner technology, greater occupational safety, and worker health protection are all things that Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation (BCIC), Bangladesh Tanners Association (BTA) and Bangladesh Finished Leather and Footwear Exporters Association’s (BFLFEA) should try to achieve. To ensure that employees have access to efficient healthcare close at hand, a specialized hospital should be built.
The nation’s leather industry city must meet worldwide standards in order for the sector to advance. It is not only feasible for the government to completely implement these steps on its own, but also necessary for the affected businessmen to cooperate. Only by putting combined initiatives of the government and businessmen into action will the tannery sector be able to achieve environmental balance. Finally, only when Bangladesh is able to preserve environmental balance in leather exports will Bangladesh’s leather and leather products receive a fair price on the global market.
Author is a student
Department of Environmental Science & Disaster Management
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science & Technology University