Losses accumulate with tannery closure10 July 2008
Leather Industries of Uganda Ltd have lost close to Shs420 million in revenue since their closure in March by the National Environmental Management Authority. And losses continue to accumulate as the tannery remains closed.
After NEMA ordered the closure of Leather Industries of Uganda Ltd (also known as Ulati and Sky Fat Tanneries), the National Water and Sewerage Corporation sealed off the sewerage lines thus blocking the discharge of the effluent into the main sewage line. As a result, at least 60 workers lost their jobs at Ulati and the local authorities have lost revenue. ‘The impact of the closure is grave. We are the only tannery with finished leather', Ulati financial controller Sanjoy Ghosh said. ‘We have issues in our control and those beyond our control like power shortages. The industry loses 105 hours per month of work because of power load shedding.' Ghosh said: ‘Each day we lose production of US$5,000 out of the 20 tonnes of hides we used to produce.' Although the financial and potential losses cannot be quantified, the tannery has failed to deliver on their contracts. The tannery exports wet-blue leather. According to Ghosh, Ulati has been operational since 1996 and it was only last year when Sky Fat Tannery opened that Jinja town experience a problem with the smell. ‘Why was it not until 2007 that the town experienced a stench from the tannery?' he asked. ‘We are ready to cooperate with NEMA but where do we go if NWSC does not allow us to discharge into their sewage system?' He said they are forging an amicable understanding with NWSC to run and discharge their effluent: ‘as we develop ourselves to have our own plant to treat and discharge into the lake.' He asked the government to provide a solution through partnership with tanneries to have a common effluent treatment plant. Sky Fat Environmental officer Chris Isingoma claims: ‘It was just a misunderstanding between us and National Water because they constructed the sewage line from here to their ponds but after six months they told us they couldn't handle it.' He said Sky Fat has already submitted plans to NEMA for the construction of their own effluent treatment plant which could cost close to Shs300million. Meanwhile tannery industries in Jinja are bitter with the National Water and Sewerage Corporation over the charges being made. Ghosh said that the industry is billed on the sewerage at 100% of the water drawn for processing hides. Tanneries stopped using water supplied by the corporation in 1999 and draw their water directly from Lake Victoria.