Hazaribag, Toxic Leather

Hardly anyone questions the origin of the leather when buying clothing or shoes. The documentary Hazaribagh, Toxic Leather answers to this question and yet provides disturbing information. On the outskirts of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, we find Hazaribagh, a giant slum populated by 500,000 inhabitants that provides cheap labor for tanneries whose cheap leather products flood Europe.

Each year, 14 millions skins are processed to be transformed into leather Hazaribagh. In these tanneries, working conditions are archaic and methods and machinery have been the same for 30 years.

Workers are exposed to dangerous working conditions, simply wearing a pair of protective gloves. Neither mask nor ventilation. When they fall ill, they are replaced. And it happens very often: 90% of workers become ill, the death rate is 300 times higher than the rest of the country… There is no sick leave, no vacation at all. Although Bangladesh is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, children are part of the workforce abundant and inexpensive. Those little hands are paid half as much…

Hazaribagh is ranked among the 30 most polluted places in the world. Every day, 15,000 m3 of waste and toxic sludge are released and accumulate in the middle of houses. They flow directly into the river untreated. It is therefore not surprising that the river crossing the city, the Buriganga, is the third most polluted river in the world. Residents wash and do their chores yet in this river. With these deplorable conditions, in Europe we can buy bags, shoes or clothes always cheaper. The WTO has imposed up to standard by 2014 the tanneries. The nine largest tanneries owned by members of the government. The latter use their influence not to rebuild their factories in a new location to house these new standards tanneries. Is is it a lost cause?

Directors: Eric de la Varène and Elise Darblay