Leather Export of Pakistan

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  • Topic: Tanning, Leather, Pollution
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  • Published : July 7, 2010
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The Pakistan Leather Industry (LEATHER)

About TED Categories and Clusters

CASE NUMBER: 309
CASE MNEMONIC: LEATHER
CASE NAME: Pakistan's Leather Industry

A IDENTIFICATION

1. The Issue

The rampant discharge of untreated effluents tanneries is a growing problem in Pakistan's leather industry. Pakistani exports of tanned leather is on the increase following a decline of leather production in the developed world due to more stringent

environmental controls. The increase of tanneries in Pakistan is causing severe environmental degradation as the untreated effluent used in the tanning process is released into nearby water
reservoirs and the sea. In addition, air pollution is on the rise with the tanneries burning residuals (i.e. hair) from the tanning process into the atmosphere. Due to a need for foreign exchange, the national government is encouraging the growth of tanneries by offering these industries export rebates while at the same time lagging on implementing the sparse existing governmental

environment regulations in leather tanning. The combination of an increasing demand for the product and a lack of government
regulation is exacerbating whatever fragile balance existed between the Pakistani leather trade and the environment.

2. Description

The relationship between the Pakistani leather trade and the environment is being strained by a growing demand for the product in the world and ignorance of environmental problems resulting from the tanning process. A one noted Pakistani news journalist commented, "The tanning industry is notorious for its heavy

pollution through effluents containing organic and inorganic matter, dissolved and suspended solids, accompanied by
requirements of high oxygenic demand and having toxic metal salt residues...these tanneries discharge effluents without any
treatment into water reservoirs and the sea."(1) Often, the tanneries are located in industrial areas within Pakistan that contain a large percentage of the population. With scarce land resources, the pollution is affecting large numbers of people. While the effluent contaminates the water supply on the land, it also pollutes the sea. This pollution in turn affects the food supply for the population. Moreover, much of the country is subjected to the direct air pollution caused by burning the tannery residuals into the open atmosphere. All of these forms of pollution are having detrimental effects upon the health of

Pakistanis.

The primary pollutants that leather tanning in Pakistan creates are heavy metals (chromium, cadium, etc.), various organic chemicals, and acids. The Pakistani government recently tested the effluent runoff from leather tanneries in Pakistan and

verified that the discharges were toxic. The sample of tannery effluent contained .30 copper milligrams per liter, .15 cadmium milligrams per liter, 7 zinc milligrams per liter, 1.14 nickel milligrams per liter, and 1.8 lead milligrams per liter.(2) These levels were almost all well above the suggested standard for toxic substance concentrations in effluent. Very few of the tanneries have any type of waste treatment facility and this runoff is released into the nearest drain (most likely an open one) or body of water such as the sea or a river. The effluent is uncontrolled by any process treatment, waste recycling, or end-of-pipe

treatment.

Leather tannery discharge, combined with mangrove destruction and over-fishing, are contributing to a sharp decrease in shrimp production. The mangroves--whose leaf litter is a major source of nutrients--provide a diverse habitat for a complex and

interdependent community of invertebrates, fish, birds, and
reptiles.(3) In addition, almost 90 percent of tropical marine species seek shelter in the mangroves for one stage of their life cycles. The loss of the commercially...
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