A high-powered taskforce for ensuring navigability of rivers on Wednesday decided to extend time for relocation of tanneries from the city’s Hazaribagh to Savar as the installation of the central effluent treatment plant at the new leather industry park would not be completed by December. It also asked the district administration in a meeting at the secretariat to allot land for construction of separate offices for Rapid Action Battalion 10 and River Police at Keraniganj in stead of allocating land in their proposed sites on a river bank. ‘The reality is that the Hazaribagh tanneries could not be relocated to Savar by the December deadline set earlier as 75 per cent work of the installation of ETP has been completed so far,’ shipping minister Shajahan Khan told a briefing after presiding over the 29th meeting of the taskforce. He said time would be extended maximum up to July next year so that the tannery owners could easily shift their factories by the time to the new location on the city outskirts. None of them would be allowed in future to run any such factories there on the bank of the Buriganga causing pollutions to the river, the minister said in reply to a question. ‘We will sit with the industries ministry soon to fix the new deadline for the relocation of the tanneries,’ the head of the taskforce said. Works minister Mosharraf Hossain, liberation war affairs minister AKM Mozammel Huq, water resources minister Anisul Islam Mahmud, land minister Shamsur Rahaman Sherif and state minister for power Nasrul Hamid, among others, attended the meeting. In 2003, the government assigned the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation to build a 199.40-acre new leather industry park with 205 factory plots as well as a modern central effluent treatment plant and a dumping yard in line with a High Court directive for relocation of the tanneries polluting the River Buriganga since 1955. Green group Paribesh Banchao Andolan said in May that out of 155 tanneries to be shifted to the tannery park at Savar, only 10 per cent of the owners completed the foundation of their factories, 40 per cent laid the foundation while the rest 50 per cent did nothing on the plots allotted to them. About the move to retrieve the ‘old Buriganga channel’, the shipping minister said, some companies and individuals had ‘interestingly’ constructed mosques and temples to protect their establishments built on the river illegally. He said it would not be possible for the authorities to evict the encroachers overnight and so they would initially campaign against the land grabbers in those areas before launching the eviction drive. An inter-ministerial meeting earlier in May cancelled the allotment of seven acres of khas land for construction of the RAB 10 office on the old Buriganga channel at Kamrangirchar in the city in a move to reclaim the dying river. Even 4-5 years ago, the channel was full of water but now it barely exists as both public and private agencies have grabbed the channel of the Buriganga, according to locals. The High Court in 2009 directed the government to take appropriate steps to stop encroachment, earth-filling, and construction of illegal structures on the Buriganga, Turag, Balu and Sitalakkhya rivers flowing by the capital city. According to various estimates, the tanneries at Hazaribagh release on an average 100 tonnes of toxic chemical wastes into the river every day, an amount that increases up to 200 tonnes a day during peak seasons, which are highly detrimental to public health, ecology and the environment. Following the 2001 court order, the government took up the project to build the tannery park at Savar with modern facilities to control environmental hazards in 2002, which was scheduled to be implemented by 2005. With no tangible progress till then, the government set 2012 as the further deadline, according to officials. Meanwhile, the government had to yet again extend the deadline to June 2015 as it failed to make the tanners come out of their reported reluctance to shift to the new location, on the one hand, and to complete the promised establishment of the central effluent treatment plant there within the stipulated time, on the other.