Produced by Sean Gallagher gallagher-photo.com
Funded by The Pulitzer Center pulitzercenter.org
On the banks of the Ganges River in northern India, lies the city of Kanpur.
It has become one of the most important cities in India as its leather industry has grown and it is now the biggest producer of leather products in the whole country.
First established in the mid 19th Century, the city’s leather is exported across the world, with 95% of its leather destined for western markets including those in the US, UK and Germany.
This success is coming at great environmental and social costs that are destroying the local Ganges River ecology and scarring the local people in the form of life-threatening illnesses.
The city is now notorious for having some of the country's worst water pollution which has been created by the leathery tannery industry which discharges waste water laced with toxic chemicals, such as chromium, freely into local waterways.
This water is used by local people and is channeled onto local farmland, subsequently poisoning the soil, entering the food chain and accumulating in local ecosystems. At greatest risk are the people who work in the tanneries and farmers who work daily with the toxic, and highly acidic water.
An array of health problems now afflict locals who are suffering as a result of the bioaccumulation of dangerous toxins over the past decades. Health problems include cancers, mental health problems, child development issues and skin diseases.