Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Fashion posing serious threat to planet earth

                                                      Lakshmi Singh

How can the fashion industry become more sustainable is the most important question that has been a issue of major debate these days

The last post spoke of the environmentalists going against the massive project of linking of two major rivers Krishna and Godavari as disastrous citing deforestation and upheaval for large number of ethnic communities as a major concern.

The environmentalists need to look at the amount of damage the fashion Industry is causing to our environment today.  The globe is facing a serious threat in the form of fashion today as its access to water is essential for cotton cultivation, textile dyeing and finishing. 

According to WWF, it can take up to 2,700 litres to produce the cotton needed to make a single t-shirt. It doesn’t end with that alone. The final operation of all dyeing process involves washing in baths to remove excesses of the original or hydrolyzed dyes not fixed to the fibre. In all these,  it is estimated that approximately 10-50% of the dyes used in the dyeing process are lost, and end up in the effluent, i.e, contaminating the environment with about one million tons of these compounds. As a consequence, these industries produce coloured waste water with a high organic load, which can contribute enormously to the environmental pollution of surface water and  treatment plants if not properly treated before disposal into the water resources. The ingestion of water contaminated with textile dyes can cause serious damage to the health of humans and of other living organisms, due to the toxicity, highlighting mutagenicity of its components . Approach the massive Orathupalayam Dam by road.

Within 2 miles of the dam, the lush rice paddies, coconut palms and banana trees that have characterized this part of southern India suddenly give way to a parched, bright red landscape, dotted only with scrub forest. The Noyyal River, which used to be clean and clear,

now runs foamy and green, polluted with the toxic runoff of the titanic textile industry 20 miles to the west, in Tirupur.At first glance, Tirupur, “Knit City,” appears to be an exemplar of  how globalization can improve the developing world. The garment industry here in Tamil Nadu earns billions of dollars annually, employs about a half-million people and exports clothes to Europe
and the United States. Chances are good that if you have a Gap, Tommy Hilfiger or Wal-Mart T-shirt marked “Made in India,” it came from here.  Sadly enough, this garment industry is responsible for disturbing the ecological balance.There is an urgent need for action on this.

How can the fashion industry become more sustainable is the most important question that has been a issue of major debate these days. The industry needs events like the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, which, since it launched in 2009, has become the world’s largest event on sustainability in fashion, with more than 1,000 participants. Here, leading international industry players can share best practice with their peers and  to create the business models required to tackle the urgent sustainability challenges facing our planet. From governments and global brands to princesses and pioneers, each attendee had one thing in common: the vision of a sustainable future for fashion. One must try and replicate the efforts of GOONJ, an NGO in India whose focus is to turn huge old material into valuable resource with the large scale civic participation. It was the first to highlight clothing as a basic but unaddressed need which deserves a place on the development agenda.Goonj were the first NGO  to reposition discard of urban households as a development resource for villages, moving away from its age old stance as a charitable object. They annually deal with over 1000 tonnes of material, from clothes, school material to old doors, windows and computers. 

 GOONJ has set precedent in handling massive disaster wastage right  from Gujarat earthquake to Tsunami, Bihar floods of 2008, Andhra floods and Uttarakhand floods etc. This is where it works on a lot of rejected material sent by people and other agencies. Over 2.5 million sanitary pads produced out of waste cloth and reached to villages/slums across India as a viable solution and powerful tool to open up taboo subject like menses.

Over 3,00,000 Kgs of throw away waste cloth converted into traditional mattress/quilt (Sujni) as large scale income generation activity in villages.  Tolead the charge towards solving global environmental, social and ethical challenges, Sensitising the young minds through awareness campaigns to opt for only recycled brands would go a long way in saving us from the threat.