But leather industry may pollute more
the government recently sanctioned a major grant for the leather industry, raising fears about increased pollution by this 'major polluter'. The industry will use the Rs 290 crore technology modernisation fund to hike production.
"The fund will be available to all segments of the industry as a capital subsidy for plant and machinery. Small-scale sector units will get up to 30 per cent subsidy, while others can get up to 20 per cent, with a ceiling of Rs 50 lakh," says Rafeeque Ahmed, chairperson, Council for Leather Exports, Chennai, an initiative promoting the industry. "The subsidy is being granted to facilitate the entry of new entrepreneurs," reveals P K Bhattacharya of Central Leather Research Institute (clri), Kanpur, a wing of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.
Ahmed says the fund will catalyse investments of about Rs 1,200 crore and, thus, increase production to meet the growing demand, especially after the rise in the cost of Chinese leather. "At present, the production is worth Rs 20,000-25,000 crore...this would increase to Rs 30,000 crore," conjectures B K Naidu of clri, Chennai. The industry targets exports of Rs 23,000 crore by 2010, a growth rate of 13.5 per cent.
"This [increase in pollution] will happen. It has not been made mandatory to adapt eco-friendly processes...in the process of modernisation, as this increases cost of production," explains Suman Chatterjee, assistant professor, leather technology department, Harcourt Butler Technological Research Institute, Kanpur. In Kanpur, which produces 12 per cent of India's leather, the common effluent treatment plant is not even equipped to deal with the main chemical, chromium, in the effluent.
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