Productive Lives - Kanpur, UP - India { 46 images } Created 27 Oct 2008

'Productive Lives' is an investigative series focusing on the socio-environmental exploitation in Jajmau Industrial Area, near Kanpur, central Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state and one of its poorest.

A maze of run-down buildings, narrow roads and sewage drains, Jajmau is composed of around 400 tanneries, 40 per cent of which are considered illegal. Grown uncontrolled on the banks of the Holy Ganges River, it is renowned for being one of the most important centres for leather in Asia. Its items, produced mostly on commission for international retail empires**, are widely traded worldwide.

Contrary to the image of safety and responsibility that consumers are being presented with, my images serve as proof of the grim reality faced by local people and their environment. Hidden inside many of the tanneries I discovered children collecting skins in dark wet pools; others were bent under the Sun, employed in scraps disposal grounds. Spending long hours in toxic, harmful environments, they earn as little as 60 Rupees per day. (1 EUR)

Most tanneries in Jajmau are interconnected: small units capable of only a few partial processes 'pass on' the leather to others along the production chain until it finally reach large local manufacturers. Dealing exclusively with middlemen providing a regular supply of finished leather, they are unable to assure no child was exploited in each and every step. Dumping sites have also grown unrestrained on the banks of the Ganges River where raw material for chicken food is produced.

Children living in nearby villages are also showing symptoms of contamination by heavy metals, used for leather processing, and penetrating the water reservoirs, while traditional activities like fishing and agriculture have been disrupted.

**Alex has gained extensive access to Kanpur's infamous tanneries. Facts and figures concerning various local and international brands have been collected and are available.
View: 25 | All