Target: Bangladesh President Zillur Rahman
Goal: Regulate tanneries in accordance with international laws that protect both workers and the environment
Within the Bangladeshi capital city of Dhaka lies the Hazaribagh neighborhood, home to tanneries which export hundreds of millions of dollars of leather a year for use in luxury items in countries ranging from China, to Germany, to the United States. The Hazaribagh tanneries are also responsible for unchecked chemical pollution and atrocious working conditions, employing workers as young as 11 years old. In spite of international law, Bangladeshi government officials blatantly ignore environmental and labor standards. Call upon Bangladesh President Zillur Rahman to regulate and reform these hazardous sites.
Hazaribagh’s tanneries make up approximately 90 percent of Bangladesh’s tanneries and employ nearly 15,000 workers. Many of these workers complain of the dangers they face at work; chemical exposure that leads to skin diseases and respiratory illnesses, unsafe tanning machinery and insufficient training that cause accidents and amputations.
In many cases, managers ignore Bangladeshi law and refuse injured workers sick leave or any compensation. Residents of Hazaribagh’s slums have their share of complaints as well. The tanneries are responsible for dumping pollutants into the air, water, and soil of their communities, which cause fevers, skin diseases, respiratory problems, and diarrhea.
Officials have ignored Bangladeshi High Court mandates to clean up the tanneries. The Environment Department overlooks infractions to environmental law while the government devises plans to move the tanneries. The Labor Inspectorate is understaffed and prefers to maintain a good relationship with managers rather than fight on behalf of workers.
As the price of leather exports continues to rise at an average $41 million per year, the Hazaribagh tanneries maintain unjust, gender-biased, and environmentally unsound operations in what is effectively an enforcement-free zone.
Tell the Bangladesh government to stop ignoring this problem and begin regulating and reforming this multi-million dollar industry.
Dear President Rahman,
Within your capital city lies the Hazaribagh neighborhood, home to tanneries responsible for exporting millions of dollars a year in leather goods all over the world. Despite this vast income, workers continue to struggle in abysmal conditions, developing diseases and risking bodily harm due to a blatant lack of regard for safety. Furthermore, the surrounding communities suffer as chemical pollutants pour into the air, soil, and water.
This is a socio-ecological crisis, and there is no excuse for such a lack of concerted action. International law and your own courts demand that the environment be protected and workers be guaranteed safe and just conditions. I call on your government to take immediate action to reform and regulate these tanneries for the betterment of your people and your country.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: wonjin via Flickr