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Animal Defenders of Westchester
P.O. Box 205
Yonkers, NY 10704

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REPORT ON LEATHER PRODUCTION TOXICITY TO THE ENVIRONMENT

 FROM THE UN WEBSITE WWW.UNIDO.ORG  

UNITED NATIONS INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZATION

FEATURE: Nepalese Tanneries Boost without Polluting the Environment

Vienna, Austria, 29 January 2001 Through the establishment of model demonstration chrome recovery and tannery effluent treatment plants in Birgunj, where 10 out of 16 tannery units are located, environmental degradation caused by the tanning industry was minimized, without undue economic burden. The establishment of these plants is unique as the country had no legislation dealing with environmental protection.  

The leather industry in Asian countries is characterized by a number of distinctive features. Many of the countries in the region attach particular importance to the sector in view of the enormous potential it offers for fostering employment, nurturing economic growth and increasing exports. At the same time, failure to appreciate the environmental impact and to enforce appropriate regulations for waste treatment and management in the leather manufacturing industries, has led to land and water degradation.

The establishment of these plants is unique as the country had no legislation dealing with the environmental protection.  

Aware of the consequences that industrial waste may cause in the future, the Government of Nepal requested UNIDO's expertise in applying economically viable measures to minimize the negative effects on the environment caused by the tanning industry.

Nepal - a landlocked kingdom sharing borders with China and India - is one of the poorest countries in the world, with nearly half of its population living below the poverty line. Ninety per cent of its working population is employed in agriculture and forestry since the limited manufacturing sector includes only few light industries such as leather production, construction materials, carpet making and food processing. Most of the tanneries are specialized in processing goatskins, only some in buffalo and cow hides. The leather produced goes mainly for export in the form of wet-blue.

Through the establishment of model demonstration chrome recovery and tannery effluent treatment plants in Birgunj, where 10 out of 16 tannery units are located, environmental degradation caused by the tanning industry was minimized, without undue economic burden. The establishment of these plants is unique as the country had no legislation dealing with environmental protection.

A ceremony of the signing the equipment handing.  

"The leather risk on labourers working in the processing stages would be reduced significantly. The other local industries would also be adopting the same technique soon", it was reported in an article in the Kathmandu Post (31 March 2000) on the occasion of the signing the equipment handing.

In 1993, the Government of Austria allocated US$617,000 to finance the UNIDO project. Despite delays in implementation beyond the control of the UNIDO project management, the project was completed within the original budget.

In 1997, the Nepalese Leather Industry and Trade Association (NLITA), Government authorities and UNIDO decided to establish more than just the one planned effluent treatment plant (ETP) in the largest tannery in Birgunj. A common effluent treatment plant (CETP) for all other tanneries was located at the premises of the Everest Leather Industries. All the parties agreed to proceed with procurement of machinery and equipment as well as upgrading a small laboratory in Birgunj necessary to control basic parameters for daily operation of the plants.

Project activities went in accordance with the plan and, ultimately, both plants were established. A chrome recovery unit was a common facility, capable of treating all chrome liquor from Birgunj tanneries, thus helping the tanners to deal effectively with a major pollutant.

Local staff working in healthier environment.  

UNIDO experts trained staff in operating the chrome recovery system as well as effluent treatment plants. The laboratory in Birgunj was upgraded and its technicians trained in monitoring quality of influent and effluent from the treatment plants. A study tour for 11 representatives of industry and government, as well as training courses for the chrome recovery unit operators provided them with the knowledge and skills required in carrying out their responsibilities.

During implementation of the project, UNIDO received consistent support from the Government and tanning industry, who offered various contributions for the facilities being established. However, the continued efficient operation and maintenance of these facilities will depend, to a great extent, on adoption and, subsequently, effective enforcement of environmental regulations by government agencies, together with the Government's continuous help in facilitating vertical integration in order to produce more value added leather products.

(Author: Ayla Kayalar)

Mr. Jakov Buljan, Tel: + 43 1 26026/3848, E-mail: jbuljan@unido.org  


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