Over 150 polluting tanneries in Kanpur face closure
Friday, 29 November 2002, 08:00 Hrs
LUCKNOW: Nearly 150 tanneries in Kanpur face closure for discharging untreated toxic effluents, but the units say the authorities are as much to blame. Taking a cue from the Supreme Court's order last week to close chromium sulphate discharging tanneries in Kolkata, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has now sprung into action in this industrial town of Uttar Pradesh. The CPCB has shot off a directive to the state pollution control board to ensure compliance with Supreme Court guidelines and take action against tanneries that do not install chromium treatment and recovery plants. Kanpur has around 300 tanneries of which as many as 210 are chrome tanning units. However, not more than 47 of these have chromium treatment plants. Some smaller tanneries still use vegetable tanning, which is a time consuming process taking a few weeks. On the other hand, chrome tanning, introduced 15 years ago, reduces the tanning time to three to four days. But these also pollute more. The first directive from the CPCB against these units came more than two years ago, but no action was taken against most of the defaulters by the state board. "We have closed down seven tanneries for violating pollution laws," said R.K. Sharma, chairman of the Uttar Pradesh pollution control board. He, however, parried queries about inaction in the case of the 150 other units that were continuing to pollute the Ganga river flowing through the neighbourhood. A Kanpur-based official of CPCB blamed the state of pollution entirely on state officials. "But for the laxity of the state board, things would not have come to such a pass," he said. "Now we are going to crack the whip on defaulters if they don't abide by the Supreme Court directive." Tannery owners in Kanpur also blame the state board. "State officials have periodically taken money from us in the name of getting a common treatment plant installed for a cluster of tanneries. But now it seems they have simply pocketed the money," remarked a small time tannery owner in the Jajmau industrial area of Kanpur district. "We are not going to take this lying down and we will fight back." Irshad Mirza, chief of the All India Leather Export Council and chairman of Mirza Tanners, has strongly defended the case of all small tanners. "It would be grossly unfair on the part of the pollution board to close down the small units as most of them are not in a position to set up independent chromium treatment plants," he said. "Besides, any such move would render tens of thousands of people jobless." "It is strange that while the courts and the government are after tanneries, nothing was done to check chromium pollution caused by electroplating units," Mirza pointed out.