Contributing to a cleaner Ganges by making Indian leather sustainable

The Ganges is one of the world’s most important rivers, providing water to about 40% of India's population. It’s also one of the world’s most polluted waterways, with human waste and industrial contaminants among the biggest causes. One contributor is the Kanpur Leather Cluster, which is why Stahl, Solidaridad, PUM Netherlands and Indian partners started a five-year public-private partnership aimed at making it more sustainable. The key: implementing new working methods and state-of-the-art technologies with a lower environmental impact.

Reducing the effluent water by at least 40%

Working with local partners Uttar Pradesh Leather Industry Association, Small Tanners Association, Central Leather Research Institute and Ganga Pollution Control Unit, the ultimate objective is to reduce the volume of effluent water discharged by at least 40% and for tanneries to introduce leather-making technologies and processes that have a lower environmental impact. The latter is part of the Indian government’s wider ‘Clean Ganga’ initiative.

Low-environmental-impact processing technologies

The steps the partners are taking include introducing new and environmentally cautious low-environmental-impact processing technologies at selected tanneries and training tannery staff on best practices. Stahl has built a Stahl Center of Excellence to demonstrate more sustainable technologies through the Stahl Campus® training institute. There is a self-assessment tool for the tannery sector. And the initiators are working with downstream communities on income generation. Improving working conditions is another focus.

Contributing to a cleaner Kanpur Leather Cluster

The Kanpur Leather Cluster is home to around 400 tanneries that discharge some 50 million liters of wastewater each day. Altogether, India accounts for 13% of the world’s leather production with 2,000 tanneries producing two billion square feet of leather each year. This raises complex issues around the environment, aid and trade and the needs of working families.

Stahl believes the public-private partnership can change the situation and contribute to the clean-up of this sacred river that is already underway. The company views this project as an example of its drive to achieve a more sustainable leather industry. The pillars of this are transparency and promoting the safe usage of chemicals around the world.

The project is supported by The Sustainable Water Fund program (FDW) 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.