Garment industry in Bangladesh struggles to contain pollution | News | Eco-Business

Ashfiq Mohammad Khalid, a rice farmer, has been creating losses for decades. His paddy fields rot from the bottom up just before his crop can mature throughout the rising season.

For Khalid, who life in the central district of Gazipur, and other farmers together the Balu River, farming is tough. Gazipur is just north of Dhaka, and has come to be a nearby hub of mass-made clothes in Bangladesh’s sprawling textile market. Air pollution in the rivers all around the funds has arrived at pretty high amounts.

Farmers assert the indiscriminate release of wastewater from close by garments factories has turned the area’s agricultural fields to tar, and brings about extended-phrase skin disorder.

“I have been struggling from itching all more than my body and sores produced on my fingers, as I experienced to do the job in my paddy discipline,” Khalid tells The 3rd Pole.

“When farmers hoe and plough land for crop cultivation, it is as if we are digging via tar. There are no fish in the river, mainly because of pollution with poisonous wastewater introduced from factories, largely people manufacturing garments.”

The space is also struggling with an acute consuming water crisis, 35-year-old Khalid provides.

River pollution

Textiles are an essential sector in Bangladesh, with knitwear and other garments accounting for about USD 44 billion of the total USD 52 billion it exported from July 2021 to June 2022. Most of the attire factories have been established up in Gazipur, Narayanganj and Savar, districts that drop less than the metropolitan region of Dhaka.

Out of a total of 2,220 factories in Gazipur, 1,222 manufacture completely ready-manufactured clothes, using about 1.6 million men and women as day labourers, in accordance to the Industrial Law enforcement.

Nonetheless, only 556 of all the factories have effluent remedy crops (ETPs) on paper, Muhammad Monir Hossain, chair of the Bangladesh River Basis, instructed The Third Pole. Of these, he stated, just 18 have installed inter-system interaction cameras, which allow the Department of Ecosystem to observe the ETPs remotely.

We have a whole lot to do in conditions of enhancing recycling capacity. Quite a few homeowners really do not want to move to enhanced recycling, due to the substantial cost.

Mohiuddin Rubel, director, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association

The Labandha River is 1 of the significant victims of industrial pollution, as there are about 500 factories alongside it. Industrial waste from Gazipur and the metropolis of Sreepur flows from the Labandha into the Turag, then joins Dhaka’s most important Buriganga River at Mirpur.

“If ETPs are as efficient as the [factory] owners declare, then how have these rivers come to be so polluted that even the nearby agricultural lands have grow to be tar black?” asks Hossain.

In collaboration with other exploration teams, Hossain’s organisation surveyed 149 rivers along industrial locations and uncovered alarming levels of wastewater air pollution, showing ETPs are hardly defending the atmosphere, he claims.

All set-built garment factories that dye, clean and colour textiles, and cement and medicine suppliers, between other people, have been discharging wastewater into the Buriganga, Shitalakshya, Turag, Dhaleshwari and Balu rivers indiscriminately, even although there is a authorized prohibition from this, Hossain provides.

Microplastics and weighty metals

Of all the textile merchandise created globally, up to 65 per cent are built from artificial fibres, these as polyester, states Shahriar Hossain, secretary-standard of the Surroundings and Social Improvement Organisation (ESDO), a non-financial gain in Bangladesh. Artificial fibres shed tiny bits of plastic, scaled-down than five millimetres in diameter. These microplastics do not crack down very easily and can continue to be in the surroundings for hundreds of years. They are also usually eaten by maritime animals, which error them for food stuff.

A series of recent reports has highlighted the extent of the issue. Investigation released in November 2022 identified that remedy plants in Bangladesh get rid of 62 per cent of microplastics on common. This signifies that even with a working treatment method plant, 38 for every cent of the microplastics generated by the dyeing, washing, pharmaceutical, battery and printing industries are remaining released into the atmosphere – and in the end the meals chain.

Research released in January revealed microplastics are existing in the drinking water, sediment, fish and other aquatic animals of the Buriganga River.

And in May well final yr, a research concluded that the Dhaka watershed is “heavily polluted”, noting that, the “Dhaleshwari, Buriganga, Shitalakshya, and Balu rivers, in specific, ended up identified to be black in colour visually and have been professional with unpleasant smells for the duration of the visual investigation”. The rivers of the watershed contained numerous contaminants, from higher levels of organic and natural pollutants to significant metals. These significant metals leach out of open up landfills, the most frequent way of disposing of solid waste in Bangladesh, into floor and groundwater.

The scientists pointed out that the Dhaleshwari, Buriganga, Shitalakshya, Turag and Tongi rivers are “seriously contaminated” and that their waters “should not be utilized for irrigation”.

Shafi Mohammed Tareq, one of the authors of the examine on the performance of ETPs, informed The Third Pole that water contamination owing to harmful metals produced crops grown from this kind of h2o unsafe. He included that the financial price to nature and human overall health of the air pollution caused by inefficient therapy devices would be much increased than the earnings created by the all set-made garment field in Bangladesh.

Squander administration and recycling are big difficulties

In accordance to Shahriar Hossain of the ESDO, much less than 1 for each cent of factories in Bangladesh use or keep the ETPs they have. He advised The Third Pole that manufacturing facility house owners continue to keep the ETPs shut most of the time and only operate them throughout an inspection. Mohammad Azaz, chair of the River and Delta Exploration Centre (RDRC), which brings specialists in the fields of river basin management, sustainability and delta reports jointly, explained to The Third Pole that the Division of Surroundings has constrained capability to appropriately keep track of ETPs inside of factories.

The dyeing sector in the Shyampur industrial area of southern Dhaka creates a huge sum of oil, grease and ammonia, which greatly contaminates community drinking water bodies. Azaz instructed The 3rd Pole that no a person can use this water and folks have documented numerous actual physical issues, in accordance to a current review by the RDRC. Its study of river water and agricultural fields in Sreepur and Shyampur in Gazipur located pollution was 10 moments larger than the permitted level.

“Though the owners [of factories] claim to have 15 for every cent recycling capacity, we measured that the industries [related to ready-made garments] hardly recycle 2-3 per cent of the water they use in factories,” Azaz tells The Third Pole.

Tareq, who is also a professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Jahangirnagar University in Dhaka, claims ETPs are a high-priced process to address the h2o used in textile factories.

“Therefore, manufacturing facility proprietors continue to be reluctant to install ETPs or mechanisms to recycle manufacturing unit wastewater, and those people factories that have ETPs have been discovered inefficient,” he states, incorporating that far more regional providers would adopt ETPs if the technology was much more sophisticated and price tag-successful, alternatively of dumping sludge squander, a frequent apply.

Sludge is a semi-good byproduct of wastewater remedy. Tareq and Hossain allege it is generally illegally dumped in landfills, agricultural fields and used in some other factories like cement and brick kilns. Worryingly, throughout the monsoon this sludge waste spreads from where it is dumped and finishes up in rivers.

Tareq says that significant metals continue being in the sludge squander, which can be absorbed by crops and enter the human physique. If eaten, it carries the threat of causing diseases, including cancer.

Is the condition enhancing?

Sector insiders admitted at the Dhaka Attire Summit held in November 2022 that squander administration and recycling are important issues for the ready-manufactured garment market in Bangladesh. They stated that the trend market has a world squander challenge and far more consideration should really be compensated to innovation and technologies that reduce drinking water and environmental air pollution.

Mohiuddin Rubel, a director of the Bangladesh Garment Brands and Exporters Association (BGMEA), admits that there are some difficulties when it arrives to the waste administration and recycling capability of the sector.

“We have a whole lot to do in phrases of boosting recycling capability. A lot of homeowners don’t want to go to increased recycling, because of to the enormous value,” Rubel adds.  

Nevertheless, Rubel asserts that items have enhanced enormously in the modern past due to environmental laws, strengthening small business conditions, buyers’ needs and governing administration checking and assistance. He suggests that the ready-made garment sector has now arrived at its maximum-at any time compliance with environmental needs.

According to the BGMEA, the country’s clothes sector now has 178 factories that maintain certificates for Management in Vitality and Environmental Layout from the US Green Constructing Council. This ranking process is employed to figure out the environmental performance of a developing.

Rubel statements that the audit mechanism and automation in acquiring environmental clearance from the Section of Environment is a clear system that can’t be manipulated, referring to on-line checking and submission of files. He says this has contributed to the improved factory ecosystem for clothing companies, these as the growing selection of eco-friendly factories, in Bangladesh.

The Third Pole contacted Abdul Hamid, the director-standard of the Office of Environment, who declined to remark. Officials in his division also declined to remark.

This tale was posted with permission from The 3rd Pole.

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