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The Dark Stain on Bangladesh's $1 Billion Leather Export Industry

The $1 billion leather export industry is hazardous for workers

Bangladesh’s tanneries are concentrated in Hazaribagh, a densely populated neighborhood on the banks of the Buriganga River. Every day these factories discharge thousands of liters of liquid waste into the river. Workers, who are exposed to toxic chemicals, make less than $2 a day.

Photograph by GMB Akash/Panos

The Hazaribagh, or “Thousand Gardens,” neighborhood in Bangladesh’s capital city of Dhaka has no trees or flowers. Instead, the industrial area is saturated with toxic chemicals from more than 200 leather tanneries polluting the air, water, and soil. The stench of animal hides, garbage dumps, and furnace smoke is so foul, some locals wear face masks. “It’s a shameful way to live,” says Gul Dulali, 27, a mother of two living in a one-room shack next to a bubbling gray stream.