English language What the papers say

Tanners are Poisoning a River with Toxic Waste

Parliamentary committee wants to close government industrial estate that has failed to manage toxic waste

Government considers $90 million education recovery plan to redress the negative impact of Covid-19 on children’s learning.

New International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry is launched.

A weekly round up of articles about work, education, social security, business and the economy. Here is the news for the week ending:

26 August 2021

This week’s round up comes from:

The Daily Star

This week in Bangladesh…

Toxic waste
Clean water is a gift; let’s not waste it! (Rahabi Khan/Unsplash)

Bangladesh parliament wants to close a government industrial estate. The Ministry of Industries set up the estate outside Dhaka city to relocate leather tanneries that used to pour untreated waste into the city’s Buriganga river. The site houses 160 leather tanneries. And now it cannot cope with the volume of liquid waste. This means that toxic waste is again pouring into local rivers. A parliamentary committee could have recommended fines. But it prefers to see the estate closed. Is that the right move?

News in Bangladesh for the week ending 26th August 2021

Education, Work, and Social Security

Study recommends vital education recovery plan

Government estimates spending an additional $90 million on an education recovery plan.

The money would fund back to school campaigns to encourage enrolment. Schools have been closed for 18 months.

The recovery plan would also counter some of the other negative effects of school closure such as child marriage and child labour.

Development partners would provide financial support through the Global Partnership for Education and other forms of development assistance.

Financing of recovery plan will not be a big problem. Development partners’ financing will speed up the implementation, but even without that, the implementation will not remain stuck due to unavailability of funds.

Mohibul Hassan Chowdhury, Deputy Education Minister

Rohingya risk life for their education

Young Rohingya people stranded in Bangladesh secretly brought textbooks across the border Myanmar in their fight for education.

Last year Bangladesh agreed to educate Rohingya children up to age 14 and according to the Myanmar curriculum. Older children would attend vocational schools. Covid-19 disrupted this plan.

Now there is no formal education for 300,000 Rohingya adolescents.

So groups of young Rohingya people set up informal schools to continue their learning and maintain their culture and ties to their home country. There are about 50 of these schools in the camps.

But the Rohingya people could not bring any education materials with them as they fled into Bangladesh. Now a few brave young people risked their lives to bring textbooks across the border.

Business, Economy and Trade

Conflicting statements over new workplace safety body

The future oversight of industrial workers safety is unclear.

The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh expires on August 31.

The Accord is a legally binding agreement between companies and trade unions to make the ready-made garment and textile factories safe.

Signatories to the expiring agreement have renewed their commitments and also want to expand the arrangement to other countries.

We are pleased to have signed a new agreement, called the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry, with trade unions and other brands to continue our joint efforts to ensure a safe work environment in Bangladesh’s garment industry

H&M Group

But Miran Ali, vice-president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said the Accord was for other countries and not for Bangladesh.

Ali said the new RMG Sustainability Council (RSC) has taken over the responsibilities of the Accord.

The RSC is an independent national tripartite body formed by brands, unions and industry.

But the RSC has no power to prosecute brands in their home country if they fail to meet their commitments.

Under the Accord brands had to cut ties with suppliers that failed to meet the standards agreed under the Accord.

The Accord has extended this legal provision until 2023.

Climate, Energy and Environment

Parliament to stop toxic waste from tanneries

Can you believe this?

Government built the Savar Tannery Industrial Estate in Hemayetpur in 2003

Until then tanneries previously located in Dhaka’s Hazaribagh area were pouring untreated waste into the Buriganga river.

But now the Government owned industrial estate cannot cope with the amount of liquid waste generated.

And it has no capacity to manage solid waste including heavy metals such as chromium

So, parliament wants to close the industrial estate until it can cope with the amount of waste generated.

The Tannery Industrial Estate has the capacity to treat around 25,000 cubic metres of liquid waste every day, but the tanners generate around 40,000 cubic metres of liquid waste per day. That means 15,000 cubic metres are dumped into the [Dhaleshwari] river without any treatment, causing severe pollution

Saber Hossain Chowdhury, Chief of parliamentary standing committee on the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change 

Two weeks ago we highlighted similar waste management issues and the lack of effluent treatment plants attached to industrial units.

Financial Inclusion and Services for the Poor

Banks create high interest rates for small farmers

Farmers are entitled to receive loans at 8 per cent interest. This rate is set by the central bank.

But a loophole allows banks to use intermediary micro-finance institutes to channel up to 70 per cent of its loans to small farmers.

Typically micro-finance institutes charge three times the stipulated rate.

Banks routinely turn away applications from small farmers. The farmers have no choice but to take loans at much higher rates from micro-finance institutes

Covid Update

Parliament recommends government-owned Essential Drugs to produce Covid-19 vaccines.

1 million Pfizer vaccine doses will arrive on 30 August as a gift from USA.

Prime Minister green-lights plan to expedite vaccinations for industrial workers

Since Bangladesh would get six crore doses of vaccine from Sinopharm as per an agreement signed by the health ministry, the prime minister gave the instruction to vaccinate the workers quickly bringing them under a separate programme

Khandker Anwarul Islam, Cabinet Secretary