One great thing about being interested in leather (except sometimes for spouses) is that almost every where you go leather has a historic presence. So here we are in Metz, on our way to the Outdoor show in Friedrichshafen, standing in the Rue des Tanneurs.
They are not hard to find these old “tanners’ streets”. Take a look close to the old centre and look for a stream. If there is a major river like the Danube in Ulm or the Moselle here look a spot where a smaller river or stream enters the main river. Here the tanners could soak and unhair the hides by hanging them in the water, obtain fresh water for tanning and dyeing, and quietly let all their wastes slide out and disappear in the main river stream.
This approach to our waste and water in our industry was the norm for many millennia until things began to change through the 20th century. We have lately seen that China is deeply worried by tannery effluent and only wants larger tanneries with the scale to have good effluent plants, and that actually use them. Both India and Pakistan have been dealing with tannery waste via common environmental treatment plants but questions are still asked about this aspect of the industry in Pakistan.
This is one of many areas that creates problems for the image of the Pakistan leather sector. It is lead by a few excellent companies but below them are a huge number of smaller businesses who find it hard to persuade the rest of the world that Pakistan is a good place to do business. Pakistan has a large raw material base, a long history of tanning, and many well trained staff who speak excellent English. So this is the moment to take advantage of the location changes resulting from the changes in China.
Such a project to address all these issues is on, via the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Authority (SMEDA) and I will be going out at the end of the July. Are you a Pakistani alumnus, or a business with interests in Pakistan? If so I need to hear from you. I will be trying to meet as many alumni as possible and should be spending time in all of the industry clusters.
Pakistan is one of the BSLT’s biggest and oldest sources of students. It would be good if together we could make a difference.
15th July 2008