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Environmental Sustainability vs. Political Decision: a Review of the Bangladesh Leather Processing Industry Relocation Plan
1  Department of Quantitative Landscape Ecology, Institute for Environmental Sciences, University of Koblenz-Landau

Published: 30 October 2012 by MDPI in The 2nd World Sustainability Forum session Environmental Sustainability
Abstract: Over the past four decades, the leather processing activity migrated from developed to developing countries. This led to the uncontrolled and unplanned development of leather processing industries in the environmentally-stressed developing countries, such as Bangladesh. Although these industries are very important for the flourishing export oriented economy of the country, lack of basic environmental protection measures have been entailing serious threats to the environmental sustainability. In response, a relocation project was launched by the Bangladesh government for the industries in Hazaribag - the principle leather processing zone located in the capital Dhaka. The project planned the relocation of these industries to an upstream and outskirt location – Savar, with the target of mitigating the environmental pollution and ecological hazard. This paper reviewed the relocation project plan from the environmental economics and urban planning point of views. The concepts and methods applied for the review are the \'Willingness to Pay\', \'Concept of Pigovian fees\', \'Hedonic Pricing Method\' and \'Social theory of Cities\'. The results prove that the project\'s target of ensuring environmental sustainability will go in vain because launching and executing this project was merely a political decision, which did not take into account any of the scientific arguments. 82% of the surveyed leather industry owners is neither willing to move to the proposed location nor willing to pay for the relocation and effluent treatment sanctioning at the new location. 18% is willing to move under the conditions of subsidies, compensations and government provided effluent treatment facilities. The Bangladesh government has to pay BDT 5.93 billion as compensation and subsidy in addition to the actual project cost of BDT 5.45 billion, whereas the expense is only BDT 3.57 billion for redeveloping Hazaribag as a planned, controlled leather industry estate in the present location with adequate environmental protection measures. The proposed transformation plan of Hazaribag brown field to a residential area after industries\' relocation, poses further threats to the human health. The upstream location of Savar risks the pollution of the entire surface water sources of Dhaka. Finally, the argument of relocating the leather industries to an outskirt location proves to be invalid in light of the historic growth trend of Dhaka. Considering the three consecutive failures to meet the relocation deadlines, these results claim that rather the redevelopment of Hazaribag industries in the present location by providing the environment friendly leather processing equipments will ensure environmental sustainability of the city.
Keywords: environmental sustainability; leather processing; politics; relocation; environmental economics; urban planning; redevelopment.