ABID AZAD

Things that make you to Think

The Feed Story

Published at Morning Tea

The small journey home to Mirpur from work at Babubazaar is quite nauseating for Rakibuzzaman Rakib, who has to pass by the Hajaribag tannery area on the way, covering his face with a handkerchief all along. Not only Rakib, but all of the commuters who regularly travel via this road have to endure the noxious fumes emanating from the domestic animals’ skins being
processed in the area surrounding Hajaribag.

What is most dangerous and alarming is that a vital ingredient used in production of poultry and fish feed is illegally produced in Hajaribag without following any safe or apposite method. This component, a protein element for poultry and fish, is known as ‘meat bone’. This meat bone is sent to the feed manufacturing companies, who then use it to produce feed for poultry and fish.

Experts on environmental pollution articulate that such production methods of poultry and fish feed not only upsets the delicate balance in the environment, but also brings the fish-poultry industry itself under threat.

Mohammad Faruq Miah Sarkar, Assistant Director of Government Poultry Farm at Savar, says, “We bring protein feed known as Pro-Pak for our farm from abroad. The meat bone that is produced in Hajaribag is not at all healthy, nor is it nutritious for the poultry or the fish.

“Moreover, we do not know if adequate research or experiment regarding the production of meat bone has been conducted by the government,” he adds.

In Hajaribag, meat bone is produced from the production waste of blue leather. The producers collect this raw material from the tanneries that discard the blue leather as a by-product. Most of the producers are small businessmen and they have no environmental clearance certificates or government permission to produce meat bone.

This business has thrived near the Sikder Women’s Medical College under Hajaribag thana. The businessmen chose this site because of the vast open fields and close proximity to the tanneries.

“At first, the waste scraps of blue leather are boiled in a large container. Then they are dried under the sun for around 8-10 days,” says Mohammad Mintu, a worker. His co-worker Harun says, “The boiled and dried blue leather is then ground by a machine to form the meat bone, a powdery substance.” As the facts suggest, the process of turning blue leather into powdered meat bone is thoroughly unhealthy and toxic. When the raw waste is brought in from the tanneries, they are stockpiled haphazardly as if they were garbage. This gives out a toxic smell which reeks up the whole area. In addition, the businessmen do not preserve the final product in a proper way.

The Hajaribag Thana Police are well aware of all these, and yet they turn a blind eye to the sufferings of the people living in and around the area. Due to this business, Hajaribag has become a cesspool of extremely polluted air and water which is making it uninhabitable.

BAPA (Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon) president Muzaffer Ahmed says, “This kind of business should not be located in a populated area. Most of the residents are leaving as there seems to be no hope for respite in light of government inaction. Shouldn’t the government verify whether or not such production practices are useful and healthy for making poultry and fish feed?”

Harun-ur-Rashid, Senior General Manager (Fibre and Feeds) of Meghna Group, commented that the production of meat bone is totally illegal and unhealthy. He says, “Feed is like life of poultry and fish. If something wrong happens in the production of the feed, then the entire farm will be affected.

“Almost all feed companies buy poultry and fish feed from foreign countries such as Australia and Uruguay who are approved by the government. We buy from abroad because in our country there are no registered or licensed companies who could provide pure and healthy meat bone,” he further adds.

Faruq Miah says, “If the meat bone produced here is used to make the feeds, the poultry and fish would get various types of diseases and may even suffer imminent death.

Moreover, the poultry and fish from those farms, if sold in the market, may become a serious health hazard.” Javed Hussein, General Secretary of Bangladesh Fish Meat Co-operative Limited at Hajaribag, agrees on the environment pollution, but denies the allegation about unhealthy feed production. He says, “It is true that we have no environmental clearance certificate, but the feed produced here is not at all harmful. Moreover, it can significantly minimise our import cost of meat bone.”

Some small businessmen, including Javed, wish for government assistance to improve their practices in this business. For this, they submitted a memorandum on 13 July 2010 to all ministries, BFLLFEA, Tanners Association, Hajaribag thana and DC office, seeking co-operation.

Mokbul Ahmed, an adviser to Bangladesh Fish Meat Co-operative Limited who started the business in Hajaribag, said, “What would be the advantage of closing down this factory where thousands of people are employed? But, at the same time, I do not support the method that is now used to produce the meat bone. It should be appropriately done, and without the government’s co-operation it cannot be improved.

“In our country, we have enough sources for raw material thanks to the large number of tanneries. We could easily produce this meat bone for the poultry and fish farms. We should not have to import this poultry and fish feed from others countries,” he adds.

According to him, meat bone is not produced in a suitable method because of the dearth of knowledge and research, specialists, and, last but not the least, government assistance regarding this industry.

He says, “Obviously there is a correct method to produce the meat bone, where it will be pollution free, useful and healthy, but I think there is a communication and technical gap between the producers and the government. If the government pays enough attention to this particular industry, it would become a great business platform for this country. Since we have many sources of raw material, why should not we utilise them?”

Experts believe that the production of meat bone at Hajaribag should not be banned; rather, the government should take initiatives to provide training, conduct research and appoint specialists to devise and implement a suitable method regarding meat bone production, which would be both healthy and environment-friendly.

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