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India is one of the fastest growing economies of the world influenced by external factors such as globalization and industrial revolution. In the argument of Goel (2014, p. 57), the leather industry contributes to the economic growth in the country. This follows the availability of the raw materials and the expertise to manage the production. With both the availability of raw material and expertise, the industry has grown to become a vibrant and major economic earner evident from the export earnings and opening up of the employment sector (Goel, 2014, p. 57). Statistics have the country earning 7% of its total export revenue from this sector (Goel, 2014, p. 57). Furthermore, it provides employment to 2.5 million people working in both the small and cottage production centers (Goel, 2014, p. 57). As such, India holds the third position globally in leather tannery with China and Italy being the leading producers, while the US being a leading consumer of the leather products. Examining the scope of the leather tanneries in the region, there are a total of approximately 2200 tanneries dispersed across three states of Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. Imperative is the realization of the challenges in the industry cutting across the political, economical, social and environmental sectors. In particular, Goel (2014, p. 56) present the difficulties in modernizing the tanneries, improvement of the leather, operation policies and establishing effective effluent treatment plants. It is evident that the manufacturing plants, especially in the northern region of the country are operating under partial means of eradicating these aforementioned challenges. Similarly, Srivastava (2010, p. 155) explains the effects of the industry in the environment, particularly in polluting rivers such as the Ganga River. Consequently, following the degrading of the environment, there is a parallel social impact especially about the health of the population.

Social Dimension of the Tannery Industry

Over the years in human history, civilization continues to change the system in the society (Srivastava, 2010, p. 155). There is the growing dependency of the population in industrial income comparable to the traditional economic activities. Here, there is an increased rural-urban migration with a majority of the population finding employment in the manufacturing and processing industries such as the leather tannery. Goel (2014, p. 57) explains of the diversification in the industry allowing it to provide employment to 2.5 million people. With the influx of people to the cities and urban towns along the growing population, the leather tannery serves as an imperative source of employment. Moreover, with the over 2000 slaughter houses, the industry promotes the livestock farmers providing them with a means of livelihood. From this perspective, the tanneries should remain operational to continue earning the country revenue and improving the social status of the population through eradicating poverty.

In reference to Chandrasekaran, Dilara and Padmavathi (2014, p. 205) a factory worker is exposed to detrimental health challenges stemming from the pollutant in the tannery industry. In particular, the workers suffer respiratory complication due to their getting in contact with the occupation hazards. Similarly, Kashyap and Singh (2017, p. 102) includes a statistical study involving the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) targeting the male tannery worker. From the research, there is evidence of respiratory health challenges, mental health abnormalities, injuries and musculoskeletal disorders present in the tannery workers. The working conditions expose them to chemicals, dust, biological hazards and heavy metals which altogether damage their health and wellbeing. Here, with these consequences and the large population of the Indians working under such conditions, there is an increase threat to the social progress both in health and economically. Therefore, it is probably accurate to close down the business until safe working conditions become established.

Environmental concern on the Tannery Industry

The tannery industry position in India raises an environmental concern following its huge contribution to pollution. Goel (2014, p. 58) explains that the level of hygiene in the slaughter houses continues to deteriorate. Furthermore, Srivastava (2010, p. 155) includes the increased pollution in water bodies following the discharging of waste into the rivers. In particular, the River Ganga contains both domestic and industrial waste from these leather tanneries. Significant in this waste is their effects to the environment including the loss of biodiversity and the escalation of diseases in the population (Srivastava, 2010, p. 155). Srivastava (2010, p. 155) identifies the presence of human corpses and animal carcasses in the river with the state of Uttar Pradesh contributing to 50% of these affluent. Therefore, with these negative impacts to the surrounding environment, especially the water bodies, the future of the business is worrisome. There is need to see the immediate closure of these factories as they limit the availability of water, a scarce resource.

Based on Singh et al. (2016, p. 34), human influence and interventions in water bodies affects their productivity. This is particular crucial for flowing water bodies such as the rivers that function as geological agents. Here, the dumping of the industrial waste from the tannery into the surrounding rivers imposes tremendous pressure in this system (Singh et al. 2016, p. 34). An example is the consumption of the heavy metals by the aquatic life making less productive and unsuitable for human consumption. These metals also manage to contaminate crop cultivated in proximity to these wasters, making them harmful to human health. Dixit et al. (2015, p. 40) support the argument against the operation of the business citing environmental concerns in the areas of waste water, solid waste and toxic chemicals. From this perspective, the future of the industry may depend on its ability to manage their waste and eradicate environmental pollution. Figure 1 below illustrates the environmental impacts of the industry.


Figure 1: Environmental impact of leather industry and technologies to combat the threat.

Political Viewpoint on the Industry

It is the duty of the legislative authorities to enforce laws on affluent management. According to Dixit et al. (2015, p. 42), it also their duty to check the quality of the treated waste before it becomes discharged into the environment. As such, the government through its bodies should spearhead quality checks on the operation of the tanneries. Furthermore, through these bodies, tanneries found in violation of the standards of pollution control should face closure and pay compensation fees for the damages caused to the society and environment. At this point, the future operation of these tanneries in India is an outcome of their ability to comply with the particular legislative policies.

Goel (2014, p. 65) explains on the government support directed towards improving the future of the industry. Notable in the support is the integrated development initiative channeling a safer production that is environmentally conscious. Important for the government is the continued economic gains from the business explained through the government policies on the business (Goel, 2014, p. 64). In particular, there is the de-licensing on tanneries converting raw material into finished goods. Here, emphasis is the reduction of adverse impacts of the processing to both the worker and the environment. Therefore, from a political perspective; the there is a likely continuation of the business but with more carefully crafted policies to see its improved performance and increased financial gains.

It is necessary to consider the suggestion by Zawahri and Hensengerth (2012, p. 270) on the collaboration between the domestic policy makers and environmental activists. Here, their working together allows the generation of asymmetric interest that may positively impact the future of the tannery industry. Imperative in this case is the failure by the state and central governments in India to combat the effects of the industry to the population (Srivastava, 2010, p. 155). Therefore, a successful future of the industry is a function of the employability of teamwork between the policy makers and environmentalists.

Conclusion and Recommendation

In summary, globalization and industrial revolution have enabled countries such as India to experience a drastic growth in their economies. Although the positive impact, specifically in the economic sector, there is an escalation of challenges in the environment and social components. At case in example is the leather industry, contributing a significant percentage of India’s total foreign exchange earnings. It also provides internal growth particular by providing employment to the millions of Indian citizen. On a social perspective, the presence of the industry interprets to both positive and negative outcomes. Positive include improved social status while the negative impacts center on poor health. Environmentally, the business contributes to environmental degradation characterized by water and land pollution. It is worthwhile to realize that the political sector works to see an improved future of the business derived by its financial gains.

In realizing a successful future, it is necessary for the government to collaborate with both the social and environmental activists. Through their collaboration, there is an enhancement of enacting effective policies that protect the operations of the business along the environmental and social thrive. Concerning the adverse effects to the workers, the companies may improve their technologies to minimize the exposure of the worker to the hazards. Consequently, with advanced technology, there is an improved chance in effecting better affluent management. It is also advisable for the industry to establish a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative in generating collective effort with the society. Here, the collective effort will see an improvement in the operations and impacts of the industry. Furthermore, it will allow the society to contribute its creativity to the business enabling excellent strategies in mitigating its challenges.


Chandrasekaran, V., Dilara, K. and Padmavathi, R., 2014. Pulmonary functions in tannery workers-a cross sectional study. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol, vol.58, no.3, pp. 205- 209.

Dixit, S., Yadav, A., Dwivedi, P.D. and Das, M., 2015. Toxic hazards of leather industry and technologies to combat threat: a review. Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 87, pp. 39- 49.

Goel, S., 2014. An in-depth study of India’s leather industry with special reference to export prospects of leather products. International Journal of Advanced Research in Management and Social Sciences, vol. 3, no.1, pp. 56-67.

Kashyap, G.C and Singh, S.K., 2017. Reliability and validity of general health questionnaire (GHQ-12) for male tannery workers: a study carried out in Kanpur, India. BMC phychiatry, vol. 17, no.1, p. 102.

Singh, H., Raghuvanshi, D., Pandey, R., Yadav, A., Tripathi, B., Kumar, P. and Shukla, D.N., 2016. Assessment of seven heavy metals in water of the river Ghaghara, a major tributary of the Ganga in northern India. Adv. Appl. Sci. Res, vol. 7, no. 5, pp. 34-45.

Srivastava, V.K., 2010. Indian rivers pollution-critical analysis: Ganga Action Plan. Indian Chemical Engineer, vol. 52, no. 2, pp. 155- 156.

Zawahri, N.A. and Hensengerth, O., 2012. Domestic environment activist and the governance of the Ganges and Mekong Rivers in India and China. International Environment Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, vol.12, no.3, pp. 269-298.