UP green watchdog orders closure of Kanpur tanneries after brief reprieve

The UP Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) had allowed 126 leather tanneries to run at 50 per cent capacity in August, provided they met pollution norms.
After providing a breather to Kanpur leather tanneries, Uttar Pradesh's green watchdog has again ordered these units to shut down after their effluents were found to be polluting river Ganga.

The UP Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) had allowed 126 leather tanneries to run at 50 per cent capacity in August, provided they met pollution norms.

However, the Ganga monitoring wing of National Green Tribunal (NGT) submitted a report claiming effluents from tanneries in Kanpur’s Jajmau industrial area were entering the river. The UPPCB took the decision based on this report and ordered closure till October 30. There are total about 267 tanneries in Jajmau.

The leather industry in Kanpur, which includes tanneries and product makers, is estimated to be worth Rs 12,000 crore. It provides direct and indirect employment to a million people in Kanpur and Unnao districts and exports goods worth Rs 6,000 crore a year to the Gulf, Europe, China, and Iran, among other markets.

Interestingly, it is the state agency Jal Nigam, not the tanneries, which has the mandate to run the effluent treatment plant. The Nigam had earlier given an undertaking that effluent would be treated within the stipulated date before being drained into the river.

“The Jal Nigam has fallen short on its commitment on treating effluents generated by tanneries. As such, the polluted water is going directly into the river, therefore the decision to close tanneries was taken,” UPPCB regional officer S B Franklin told Business Standard today.

Franklin added that although tanneries were not entirely to be blamed for untreated effluent, yet the closure order would impact them directly. “The Jal Nigam has sought time till October 30 to set things right for effluent treatment.”

In July 2019, the Yogi Adityanath government had decided to allow conditional reopening of tanneries if they met environmental norms. After the recommendation of the district administration following spot inspections, the UPPCB had in August allowed tanneries to reopen in Jajmau.

Meanwhile, Small Tanners’ Association member Nayyar Jamal lamented that the tanneries, which began shutting down in November 15, 2018, in run up to the Kumbh Mela 2019, would soon complete a year of disruption in business.

“The Jal Nigam has spent millions on its treatment plant, yet it is discharging untreated effluents in Ganga. The money has gone down the drain and we are suffering because of their shortcomings,” Nayyar said, noting that such disruption was earning a bad name for Kanpur leather hub.

Last year, the closure order was effective from December 15, 2018 to March 15, 2019 to ensure clean water in downstream Ganga river for the Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj (Allahabad). However, tanneries had continued to be shut, since UPPCB refused no-objection certificate (NoC) citing the presence of pollutants beyond the permissible limit in the river.

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