Tainted Tanneries

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Environmental agencies are cracking down on India's tanneries. But with many livelihoods on the line, is displacing them the only solution?

Mohammad Sharifuddin spent his entire life surrounded by the smell of rotting flesh and industrial chemicals. He’s run his tannery shop for 30 years now, and says he can sense the smell - a little - but that he’s never fallen sick because of it.

While Mohammad and the shopkeepers of the tannery district in Bholakpur might not mind their work environment, their neighbours certainly do. In 2009, 14 people died and 469 were hospitalized from drinking contaminated water. This started a long process of governments trying to get the tanneries shifted from the city, and of residents complaining that their water had turned black, their air turned toxic from the fumes of burning plastic, and their pipes corroded from the chemically-saturated sewage.

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