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Where pollution is more than skin-deep

By Vikram Sharma

HYDERABAD, APRIL 29. Ever experienced `hell' on earth? If not, take a walk through the dingy lanes of Bakaram and surrounding areas in Musheerabad, and experience it - heaps of animal hides, overpowering stench and bloodstains all through. Over the last 50 years, residents of these localities have been experiencing hell and no one has bothered to come to their rescue.

It has gone to such an extent, that the concerned officials have turned a blind eye to the innumerable representations made by the local residents. Only last year, the authorities had withdrawn the trade licenses of the five tanneries at Bakaram, but it appears that the proprietors of such industries managed to silence the officials by promising them that they would take appropriate measures to cut down pollution.

It all starts after the arrival of huge stocks of hides of cows, buffaloes, sheep and goats, from slaughterhouses. First, salt is applied on the skins, then begins the sodium and lime process, next is removal of hair and flesh and then the chrome tanning process.

"Chrome is the culprit. After our tanneries were shut down by the Pollution Control Board last year, we assured the officials that the chrome used would be recovered after the process is completed, and we are doing it. Ninety per cent of chrome is being recovered, which is hardly causing any pollution," maintains Mohammed Raza, the managing director of Roshan Best Private Limited. He explains that after the hide is washed in chrome, it is put in a drum containing water and certain chemicals. Later, the chrome settles down.

Mr. Raza said that the PCB officials are monitoring the chrome recovery on a monthly basis. "Chrome has been in use for the last 25 years, and we have never come across anyone suffering from health problems," he claims. He adds: "Anyway, all the five tanneries here are shifting to Konnur village near Bhongir in August this year. Four more tanneries are also coming up. Besides, a chrome recovery plant is also coming up there," he informs. According to him, the Government has allotted 120 acres, five acres each for each tannery.

A local resident, G. Krishna, says, "The stench is unbearable here. During the rainy season, the hair of animals and other waste material, enter the houses along with the water. Various political parties have assured us that the tanneries will be shifted to the outskirts, but nothing has been done so far. We made several representations to the MCH, but they too failed to do anything. My family members and other locals have even complained that we are suffering from health problems like asthma and other respiratory diseases, but no one listens to our woes."

When told that the tanneries are being shifted to Bhongir, another local, Anandaiah said that such assurances were being given for the last 10 years. "The officials -- be it MCH or anyone - are bought by the proprietors of the tanning industries," he fumed. We have no other place to go, this place is hell, he adds.

(Readers are welcome to write about civic problems in their areas to the City Editor, The Hindu, Begumpet, Hyderabad-16 or email to hydlife@thehindu.co.in)

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