JPIC Staff Visits Bangladesh
May 3rd, 2013
Christina Herman, JPIC Office Associate Director, visited Bangladesh in late March/early April. Her daughter, Emma, accompanied her, taking thousands of photos and copious notes. Fr. Joseph Gomes, OMI graciously hosted a ten day trip around the Sylhet region of NE Bangladesh, which provided a fascinating look at the lives of the indigenous Khasi people and the issues confronting their villages. The Oblate mission in Bangladesh started in the Sylhet region, and there are a number of parishes among the indigenous peoples of the area.
Frequent national strikes (or hartals) called by a political opposition determined to undermine the government made the trip challenging, but the group covered a lot of ground.
In Dhaka, Christina teamed up with the Bangladesh WaterKeeper, Sharif Jamil, in an examination of environmental and labor issues related to the leather and garment export industries. They visited the Buriganga River, leather tanneries north of the city, a massive garment factory, and had a number of informative meetings with factory owners and managers, labor union organizers, and environmentalists.
The tanneries are a large source of pollution for the main river flowing through Dhaka, a megacity of an estimated 18 million people. Millions depend on the rivers for bathing, washing clothes, and transportation, yet they are heavily polluted with industrial and human waste. Human Rights Watch recently issued a study of the health impacts of the tanneries, which matched the findings of this trip. Untreated industrial waste flowing from the garment factories is common. A huge factor in the pollution is the lack of adequate sewage treatment for the city’s burgeoning population.
A more detailed trip report will be available soon. Please see below for a few photos from the visit: