Environmental management

16 May 2003

Astudy of the Indian leather industry under the main heading of Environmental Management has been written by A Sahasranaman and sponsored and published by the Council for Leather Exports. This is a 130 page publication packed with facts, statistics, tables, diagrams, pie charts, graphs and photographs. The foreword, by Irshad Mirza, then chairman of the CLE, reminds us that the leather industry in India is dominated by small scale industrial units which can be found in clusters around the country. In the early 1990s these tannery clusters were not over-blessed with waste treatment and disposal facilities and it became increasingly obvious that action was urgently needed. In January 1996, Sahasranaman was selected by Unido, Viena, as the programme co-ordinator of its regional programme for pollution control in the tanning industry in south east Asia. This ambitious programme covered Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Other countries such as Iran, Mongolia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, participated in various disseminated activities and demonstrations of suitable technologies for SMEs in the region for the containment of pollution at source and treating it efficiently at the end of the pipe was the prime aim of the programme which concluded in June 2002. In India, cow slaughter is banned for religious reasons in most parts of the country. Cattle are, therefore, generally not slaughtered except when they become old enough for it to be permitted by law. Even so, slaughter is only carried out in a few states (Kerala, West Bengal and the north eastern states). Buffalo, sheep and goats are slaughtered for their meat all over the country. However, in much of the northern part of the country, buffaloes are used as draught animals and are not killed until they become too old to work. The system of hide and skin collection and marketing is said to be quite unlike anywhere else. In a 1987 CLRI report, it was estimated that around nine million hides and an equal number of skins were lost annually due to non-recovery in out of the way villages. However, as the prices rose, losses due to non-recovery are said to have declined sharply. The end of the study, under the heading The Way Forward, includes these words: 'Unflinching commitment to environmental goals by top management of industrial units is a prerequisite for consistent performance by ETP/CETPs (common effluent treatment plants). Though the fear of the court of law or of PCB (pollution control boards) introduced tanners to environmental matters, today most tanners in India display keen and genuine interest in this regard.'

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