Kumbh Mela 2019: Adding that ordering the shutdown of leather industries in Uttar Pradesh is meaningless if it is only for a religious congression, pollution-control expert and green technologist Ghosh says that public health which suffers the most because of unchecked pollution created by it, should be the priority.
The Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh Government has ordered the shutdown of tanneries in the cities of Kanpur and Unnao from December 15 to March 15 in order to provide clean water to devotees participating in the upcoming Ardh Kumbh festival.
The Kumbh Mela is a congressional Hindu pilgrimage in which devotees gather to bathe in a sacred or holy river. The mela this time is slated to be held in the Allahabad city (now called Prayagraj) from January 15 to March 4, 2019
As per the Uttar Pradesh State Industrial Development Corporation (UPSIDC) cited by many media reports, there are 264 small and big tanneries which are operating out of Kanpur and Unnao.
Somendra Mohan Ghosh who is an award-winning environmental scientist and green technologist spoke to the Financial Express Online and confirmed that in the state of Uttar Pradesh, around 300 tanneries, out of the total 429 tanneries, are seriously polluting the state with toxic elements which are used for treating the various animals hides and skins along with heavily toxic metals such as the Chromium discharge after processing the leathers.
Ghosh also added that “Many of the city’s tanneries in large, medium and small scale are located in the small area of Kanpur’s Jajmau which are the country’s leading leather exporters and the major portion of their production destined for markets in the UK and the US.”
The Common Chrome recovery unit has been set up in Jajmau, Kanpur for small tannery industries by the Municipal Corporation financed by The Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India.
Adding that ordering the shutdown of leather industries in Uttar Pradesh is meaningless if it is only for a religious congression, Ghosh says that public health which suffers the most because of unchecked pollution created by it, should be the priority.
Ghosh continues, “In the leather complex, the effluent discharges for bleaching and tanning contaminates the groundwater and people who have settled within 5 kms radius of such zone are facing air – water pollution problems and farming is the worst affected.
So, Ganga is not the only problem but social life of the large number of local people is very problematic, he adds.
And it is not just the holy river Ganga which is facing the pollution crisis, there are serious problems with the canal water used by the farmers for agricultural purposes.
The environmentalist rues that the food chain is also polluted now. The highly toxic chemicals and heavy metal contaminated food, we are consuming are from UP belt, he says.
Chromium is also contaminating with the ground water in that region and polluting the drinking water.
He says, “Total 76 tanning industries are members of Common Chrome Recovery Plant and 90 chrome tanning units have installed their own chrome recovery units within their premises.
Currently, the total capacity of the common plant is not being utilized because of the lack of ‘drum dryer’ for which funds are being sought from the Government of India for installing the same.
Ghosh continues, “The continuous process for developments in all fronts are going on last few years but in very slow scale.”
The environmentalist is of the view that the answer is sustainable development.
This way, he says, the export revenue earning industries can survive with large number of labours and at the same time total environment could be and should be upgraded by clean technologies.
And everything has a solution, he opines.
The alternative to Chrome tanning process is ‘vegetables tanning’ which, Ghosh affirms is environment friendly. However, it consumes more time, taking approximately 60 days to complete the entire process.