Uttar Pradesh green watchdog has ordered the closure of leather tanneries in Kanpur in view of the ongoing Magh Mela festival in Prayagraj (Allahabad) for ensuring the flow of clean water in downstream river Ganga.
According to the closure roster issued by the UP Pollution Control Board (UPPCB), the tanneries, numbering more than 250, have been instructed to close down intermittently for a total of 18 days between January 8 and February 21, 2020.
Each of the six closure periods would last for three days so that no effluents or pollutants get discharges in the river and its catchment areas for the six main bathing rituals viz. Paush Purnima (Jan 10), Makar Sankranti (Jan 15), Mauni Amavasya (Jan 24), Basant Panchami (Jan 30), Maghi Purnima (Feb 9) and Maha Shivratri (Feb 21).
The Board has warned the tanneries of penal action and slapping of environmental fine if their units were found to be indulging in wet leather processing during random inspections by its officials.
Interestingly, the fresh closure order comes barely three weeks after the tanneries were allowed to reopen and operate at 50 per cent capacity after about 13 months’ lockout starting from December 2018 ahead of the Kumbh Mela 2019 in Prayagraj.
On December 14, 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited Kanpur to review the progress of the Centre’s flagship Namami Gange project and to personally see the purported improvement in the quality of water flowing in river Ganga.
Within days of Modi’s Kanpur visit, the UPPCB allowed 248 leather tanneries in the Jajmau area of Kanpur to reopen with the precondition to operate at 50 per cent capacity, while the Board would reassess the situation after two months and decide whether to extend the permission.
Meanwhile, Kanpur-based Small Tanners’ Association member Nayyar Jamal told Business Standard that most tanneries had still not reopened, since they were in the process of preparing their machinery for the processing of leather after a long hiatus.
“Most of the units are still taking steps to bring their drums and other machinery in the working condition and to tie up with the hide suppliers for processing. Therefore, the new closure order does not make much difference to us,” he noted.
Nearly 400 tanneries in Kanpur City were directed by the UPPCB for closure between December 15, 2018 and March 15, 2019. For compliance, the tanneries downed shutter nearly a month before the deadline of December 15 to ensure that no effluent was generated.
The 13 months lockout of Kanpur leather tanneries has pulled down India’s finished leather exports by nearly 29 per cent during April-August 2019 compared to the corresponding period last financial year 2018-19.
While, India exported finished leather worth $million 334.6 during Apr-Aug 2018, the offshore consignments fell by 29 per cent to $million 237.7 in the corresponding period in the current fiscal year.
So far, nearly 40 Kanpur tanneries have relocated to West Bengal owing to periodic disruption in UP on issues of pollution and supply of raw leather after the Yogi Adityanath government clamped down upon illegal abattoirs.
Kanpur leather industry, including tanneries and leather goods manufacturers, estimated at Rs 12,000 crore, provides direct and indirect employment to a million people in Kanpur and Unnao districts. The cluster generates Rs 6,000 crore worth of exports to the Gulf, Europe, China, Iran etc.