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Invisible price we pay for producing a garment is concerning for environment

We need to develop innovative technologies and policies for textile dyeing and effluent treatment to reduce water use for protecting water pollution, which is threatening for fisheries, biodiversity, and groundwater

Bangladesh apparel industry has a good reputation at home and abroad as a quality garments product manufacturer. It is a great proud for the industry that every third European has a t-shirt made in Bangladesh on his back and every fifth American wears jeans manufactured in Bangladesh, the world’s number two garment exporter.

Untreated effluents in textile
Figure 1: Untreated effluents pose a dangerous global threat for the living being and the environment. Courtesy: catchnews

But the invisible price we pay every time for producing a garment is concerning for our environment. Textile factories use on average 120 liters of water to dye and wash a kg of fabric (about two pairs of jeans) and the effluents are discharged into nearby rivers or wetlands without proper treatment, said a recent study of a BUET team led by Mohidus Samad Khan, a teacher at the chemical engineering department.

Textile factories use on average 120 litres of water to dye and wash a kg of fabric (about two pairs of jeans) and the effluents are discharged into nearby rivers or wetlands without proper treatment, said a recent study of a Buet team.

Textile industries would be dumping a mind-boggling 20,300 crore liters of untreated wastewater into the country’s waterbodies every year from 2021 if the current situation did not improve, said the BUET study. It said the pollution would be threatening for fisheries, biodiversity, and groundwater.

The untreated effluents could instigate quick changes in the aquatic ecosystems and have a high economic impact on fisheries. The warm wastewater might also increase the temperature of the water bodies and affect flora and fauna, the study counseled.

Factories pumping out water for washing and dyeing fabrics has caused groundwater levels to drop in the apparel industrial belts like Dhaka, Gazipur, Savar, and Narayanganj.

Rivers and water bodies near the textile industrial zones Dhaka, Narayanganj, and Gazipur are the major receivers of the unprocessed effluents. Many villages in Gazipur and DND (Dhaka-Narayanganj-Demra) embankment are now being threatened by environmental degradation caused by textile effluents.

By consuming and using polluted water for bathing, washing and for household work, marginal people, especially the children, are suffering from various diseases.

The study predicts that by 2021, the textile sector would export goods worth $50 billion a year.

The predicted yearly effluent discharge figure for 2021 and onwards was conservative since it was assumed that 65 percent woven and 15 percent knit fabric would still be imported.

“The wastewater generation has been increasing in Bangladesh and it will go up higher than the projected rate considering the steady growth of the local textile industry,” said an expert.

The government categorizes textile dyeing industries as ‘Red industries’ (most polluting) under the Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act, 1995 and the Environment Conservation Rules, 1997 and made Effluent Treatment Plants (ETPs) mandatory for the factories.

Almost all large factories run effluent treatment plants as it is mandatory. They invest Tk 20 crore to Tk 35 crore to install.

Sources in the Department of Environment (DoE), however, claimed that they have issued ETP installation permission to 1,376 textile factories.

According to sources in the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association data, the country has around 450 spinning mills, 1,200 weaving mills, and around 5,000 export-oriented dyeing factories. There are several thousand small dyeing factories catering the local markets as well.

The study highlighted, intended for policymakers, textile engineers, and environmentalist so that they could develop innovative technologies and policies for textile dyeing and effluent treatment. A more scientific approach could reduce water usage by 23 percent.

Strict monitoring of effluent treatment to curb pollution is urgent as the situation regarding environmental pollution is getting worse every day.

Individual accountability has to be ensured so that none can dump wastewater into the river without treating it. In this regard, setting up of central ETPs for clusters of factories is important.

Factory owners have already taken measures

Already textile factory owners have started to use modern technologies to reduce the use of water to make their plants less expensive to run. They are very much concern on this issue and they are using several eco-friendly technologies to protect the earth from the textile waste.

Effluent Treatment Plants BD
Figure 2: Many factories of Bangladesh textile industry has state-of-the-art Effluent Treatment Plants (ETPs).

Factory Tales, a Textile Today initiative for branding Bangladesh textile and apparel industry, already covered many stories on several factory’s best practices regarding sustainability, innovative technologies for textile dyeing and effluent treatment etc. We have found numerous factories– Shasha Denims Limited, Pioneer Denim Limited, Masco Group, Denimach Washing Limited, Viyellatex Group, ACS Textiles, APS Group, Envoy Textiles Limited (ETL),  Mithela Textile Industries Limited and many more—have already reduced water usage in the production process.

sustainable textile factories BD

Shama Proshad Ghosh, Senior general manager of Envoy Textile, a reputed denim factory in Bhaluka, informed, “The parameter of our ETP is set at a high standard as the discharged water is used in the fish pond on the factory premises. We collect samples from the ETP to test in our own lab for maintaining the quality of discharged water. Running the ETP is expensive. We spend Tk 24 for treating one cubic meter of water.”

Monsoor Ahmed, Secretary of Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA), said that almost all large factories run effluent treatment plants as it is mandatory. They invest Tk 20 crore to Tk 35 crore to install.

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