Solidaridad, Stahl & PUM launch five-year tannery project for a cleaner Ganges river

Solidaridad, Stahl and PUM Netherlands senior experts and a number of Indian partners officially launched a public-private partnership to clean up the Ganges. The project endeavors to make the Kanpur Leather Cluster more sustainable by implementing new working methods and state-of-the-art technologies with a lower environmental impact. This five-year project aims to address several challenges related to overall water use and pollution from the Kanpur leather cluster, which is partly responsible for pollution loads in the Ganges.

The overall objective of the five-year project is to reduce the effluent water discharged by at least 40% and to introduce alternative technologies and processes at tanneries with a reduced environmental impact. Solidaridad, Stahl and PUM are working together with the local partners Uttar Pradesh Leather Industry Association, Small Tanners Association, Central Leather Research Institute and Ganga Pollution Control Unit. The latter is part of the wider ‘Clean Ganga’ initiative launched by the Indian government several years ago.

Together these partners will introduce environmentally cautious production methods and train tannery staff on best practices. A Stahl Center of Excellence will be established to demonstrate more sustainable technologies. In addition, there are activities for downstream communities about efficient water use for irrigation and livestock farming. “Solidaridad sees cooperation with tanneries and governments as the key to a cleaner Ganges”, says Gert van der Bijl, International Programme Manager Livestock & Leather at Solidaridad. “Together we work on sustainable work practices for these tanneries. Solidaridad will introduce new technologies, business processes and trainings at all levels to diminish water use and pollution. Improving working conditions is an important focus.”

With this project, Stahl reaffirms its commitment to achieving a more sustainable leather industry via transparency. “At Stahl we believe in actively promoting safe usage of chemicals around the world,” says Michael Costello, Director Sustainability at Stahl. “We are well aware of the complex issues in the Kanpur leather cluster where some 400 tanneries discharge 50 million liters of waste water each day. We also understand that we alone cannot change the situation, so we have joined forces with industry partners and local authorities to contribute to the clean-up already underway of this iconic and sacred river,” he adds.

“There is a lot of talk about aid & trade these days, but bringing tangible benefits to working class families while sparing the environment is hard work,” PUM CEO Johan van de Gronden says. “We are proud to work with governments, the industry, NGO’s and the local communities to help build a leather supply chain that is as vibrant as it is clean.”

The project is supported by The Sustainable Water Fund programme (FDW), a public-private partnership facility of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Solidaridad is the overall project coordinator and consortium leader, Stahl is the main private contributor and PUM provides technical assistance and training support from senior experts.

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