Sunday, December 8, 2013

Solutions to Third World Problems for Tannery Pollution

There are many reasons that the environment is so negatively impacted in third world countries like Bangladesh and many others, that are participating in leather tanning.  There are at least three ways that could be approached in a way to yield success in changing the behavior of these industries.  The tanneries need a positive incentive for compliance, education to understand the necessity and a voice should be given to those who are most impacted for continued observation and improvement.

Currently, there is no incentive for businesses to comply with the strict laws that are already in place to create a clean environment around their industry.  Bribery is standard practice for dealing with the rules and those who wish to comply find that they must pay the bribe as well as pay to clean their waste products.  This creates an atmosphere which actively discourages businesses from treating their wastewater.  Bribery is a large topic and will be addressed in a future blog.  Even if the bribery is addressed, there is no positive incentive for cooperation and therefore more effort is made to evade the rules than to comply.

One idea to encourage compliance would be to have a positive incentive rather than a punishment for non-compliance.  Rewarding businesses for creating clean water would encourage them to do their best to create systems that accomplish this goal.  If they received discounts on fees, or financial rewards - this would be a reason for all the owners to work towards compliance, but especially those who are smaller and struggling the most.  Many of the tanneries are small businesses with such a slim profit margin that they are unable to afford the technology to clean the water, or to use less damaging chemicals.  However, if the government were to give incentives for clean water, and organizations wanting to positively impacted the environment made loans to enable businesses to purchase the equipment used to clean the water - the results would likely be much more successful than the current system.
Water Lilly farms in Bangladesh - a use of clean water by the community.
Many of the business owners are unaware of the damage that their unfiltered water does to the environment.  Education of these owners would go a long way towards improving the efforts people are willing to make about cleaning up their businesses.  To change the ingrained thinking, would require an outreach program with easily understood examples of how the different chemicals and processes impact the environment and the people who live on it.  No one wants to pollute their own home and these people are living in the same area that they are polluting.  Creating a better understanding of the impact of their actions - would also give them a great deal more incentive to work harder to find ways to clean up their businesses.

The owner of a recently established tannery said:
“When the environmental regulations started to be enforced, the people in the industry were mostly uneducated and not interested, they did install primary treatment plants but only because they had to. They went for it with a broken heart. The awareness has only come later, maybe the past 5 or 8 years. New people are moving into the business with more education and different attitudes. We go for cleaning voluntarily.”

It would also be very helpful if there was some sort of community forum for the people who live in these areas to give feedback and pressure to the business owners who are not complying.  When they are accountable to each other and not simply to public officials who are easily bribed and sent away - this pressure can add to the percentage of owners who will conform and follow create better practices of cleaning their environmental pollution.  This could be achieved by town meetings - possibly organized by mothers and or others who live in the area and care.  People who live downstream of the pollution may also decide to bring pressure to bear on this area - in order to convince the perpetrators to change their ways.

Any of these three ideas would go a long ways towards implementing positive change in what is currently a very corrupt and poorly run system that is damaging to the people and environment.  There are a great number of people living in and near the area who are negatively impacted by this problem.  Finding positive ways to educate, incentive, and apply pressure for compliance, will change not only this portion of the world, but positively impact a whole industry in 3rd world countries that are struggling. 

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