With the tanneries moving out of Hazaribagh, the next decision facing the government is what to do with the 150 bigha area.
According to Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, senior secretary of the Ministry of Industries, the ministry will request the prime minister to look into the issue so the area can be repurposed into a planned and well facilitated residential area.
"The ministry has sent a proposal to the Ministry of Housing and Public Works to take the necessary steps," he added.
“We have asked the government to convert the land into a residential area and to do this in collaboration with the land owners,” Md Shakawat Ullah, general secretary of Bangladesh Tanners Association, told the Dhaka Tribune.
The inhabitants and environmental rights groups are supportive of this proposal.
“The area needs to have educational institutions, lots of open space, play grounds and health care facilities, all of which are currently absent,” said Md Ismail Hossain, the owner of an eight-storey building in Hazaribagh.
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With a notable lack of schools in Hazaribagh, Babul is relegated to helping out his mother in doing unhygienic and hazardous tannery work Nashirul Islam/Dhaka Tribune
Environmentalists have also been actively pressurising the government and tannery owners to quickly shift the tanneries and stop polluting the area.
“The soil there needs to regenerate in order to remove the toxic elements. When converting the space into a residential area, the developers should ensure lots of open space, schools and play grounds,” said Syeda Rizwana Hasan, executive director of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA).
She also urged the government to ensure that all development work in the area is conducted in accordance with the Detailed Area Plan (DAP).
“I think for the government to build a planned residential area here, it should first acquire the land and then re-allocate plots to owners based on the value of their lands,” said engineer M Abu Taher, former chairman of Bangladesh Finished Leather, Leathergoods, and Footwear Exporters Association.
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The tanneries in Dhaka’s Hazaribagh area occupy a large area of land, which could be used to build residential facilities once all the tanneries have been moved to Savar SYED ZAKIR HOSSAIN
Taher, who owns 52 kathas of land in the area, also suggested proper planning for the road network in the area, so as not to make them narrow like the streets of Old Dhaka.
“However, as relocation of the tanneries is still ongoing and the ministry has yet to formulate the plan for the potential residential area, it is still too early to comment on the issue,” said Bangladesh Tanners Association General Secretary Shakawat Ullah.