New Delhi: Tanneries in Uttar Pradesh's Kanpur, which were closed for 14 months on the charge of "polluting" Ganga river during Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj (Allahabad), have received another jolt from Regional Pollution Control Board of Uttar Pradesh.
The UPPCB has ordered 248 tanneries in Jajmau area of Kanpur to stop operations from February 19 till further orders, without citing any reason.
The move follows the Central Pollution Control Board taking strong note of effluent discharge in Kanpur drains polluting the Ganga.
In a letter to the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB), the CPCB asked it to ensure that no industry discharges effluent into any drain without meeting prescribed standards, and that coloured or untreated effluent is not drained into river Ganga.
It asked the UPPCB to file an action taken report by February 29.
The tanneries, which remained closed for a period of 14 months on the charge of polluting Ganga, were allowed to start production on December 20 for two months only.
"In exercise of the power conferred under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, you (UPPCB) are hereby directed to take appropriate measures including issuance of directions to ensure implementation of the following pollution control measures in a time bound manner," CPCB Acting Chairman R S Prasad was quoted as saying by PTI.
Commenting on the move, Naiyar Jamal, former general secretary of Kanpur Tanneries Association, told NewsClick: "The tanneries in Kanpur were shut down for 14 months on the order of government. They re- opened two months ago and now again UPPCB has ordered to shut 248 tanneries till next further order with giving any reason. This time the government is shutting these for "different" reasons,” adding that the government “is adamant to finish us because if we are not able to deliver goods, how can we survive."
He said: "On December 20 last year, the government, while granting permission to run the units with half capacity, had also stated that the tanners would be allowed to run their units till next year if they followed the necessary norms and standards fixed by the pollution control board."
Jamal said the sudden decision will hit industry, as well as employment. "During the last two months, not a single notice was issued to any tannery by the regional pollution control board because the tanneries did not flout the norms set by it."
Azim Ansari, a leather exporter, said the closure order would not only damage the business image of tanneries but would affect leather export too. "The leather industry, for which Kanpur was known in the world, is on the verge of destruction."
He said the tanneries which have got orders from foreign companies would suffer if they failed to supply the goods in time.
Another Association member told NewsClick that the tanners would also face problems in getting new orders.
"We are being accused of polluting Ganga but the question is that Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that cleaning of the Ganga was long pending and the Namami Gange was brought in as a comprehensive initiative for this. A huge amount was spent but why has Ganga not been cleaned in his six years of his tenure? Where is money going?" he asked.
The Association also said that Kanpur was an "industrial" city and alleged that there were so many industries that were flouting norms, including textile, chemical, detergent powder and automobile sector, “but the government is the only targeting leather industry and tanneries.”
He alleged 80% of Muslims and dalits were involved in tanneries and leather industry and this was reason the government was destroying this business. “We belong to weaker sections and nobody listens to our pain, which is why we are on the verge of destruction," he added.
The CPCB official in its notice said, "Water quality of river Ganga and its tributaries has been threatened due to disposal of untreated sewage and sullage from drains and discharge of untreated or partially treated effluent from grossly polluting industries (GPI) which are mixed with drain effluent and reach Ganga river directly through its tributaries."
The CPCB, in consultation with the UPPCB, has inventoried over 1,000 GPI operating in Uttar Pradesh with the potential to discharge effluent in the river Ganga.
It has also been monitoring 24 drains, two in Unnao and 22 in Kanpur since March 2019 on a weekly basis, the official said.
Speaking to NewsClick over the losses incurred by tanneries, Javed Iqbal, Regional Chairman, Council for Leather Export (Central region, Kanpur), said:" Kanpur's tannery sector is about 150 years old and is part of the Rs 12,000 crore composite Kanpur leather cluster, which also embraces the adjacent Unnao district. The cluster generates Rs 6,000 crore worth of exports to the Gulf, Europe, China and Iran. It provides direct and indirect livelihood to almost a million people."
However, continued closure has resulted in a huge financial loss to local entrepreneurs apart from loss of their permanent client base, both national and international.
The Bharatiya Janata Party-led Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh had ordered shutdown of leather processing units or tanneries till February last week during annual Hindu bathing festival of Magh Mela, which was held January 10 with Paush Poornima.
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