The above lines from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge are an apt description of the global water insecurity at present. The world has witnessed the flush flood this year probably occupying largest number of countries and vast areas in its history. From the USA to Asia billions of people were affected by flood caused by incessant rains. But ironically the same world is facing a mounting crisis for water that is drinkable and suitable for human consumption.
At present less than 3% of the earth’s water is fresh and the balance 97% is seawater and undrinkable. Of the 3% that is suitable, over 2.5% is frozen and is locked in the polar ice cap of Antarctica, meaning that humanity must rely on the remaining 0.5% for the all requirements and the ecosystem’s fresh water needs. Furthermore, the UN estimates that by 2050 there will be an additional 3 billion people inhabiting the planet, with most population growth coming from developing countries that are already suffering from usable
Bangladesh, the biggest delta in the world and historically a riverine country, is also facing problem of too little usable water. About 18 million residents of Dhaka, the capital of the country, are being threatened by extremely high levels of pollution. The rivers are so polluted as to be deemed “ecologically critical.” The pollution of the surface water is putting additional pressure on the groundwater resources that supply drinking water for 80 per cent of Dhaka residents. The ground water level in Dhaka is declining 2-3 meter every year because of high level of consumption.
About 18 million residents of Dhaka are being threatened by the extremely high levels of pollution.
Industrial pollution accounts for 60% water pollution in Dhaka. Most of the garment and textile factories of Bangladesh are situated in Dhaka and on its outskirts. It’s evident that the textile and apparel factories are a part of the pollution problem. On an average a textile mill uses 100,000 cubic meter of water per month. About 150 litres of water is required to process 1 kg of cotton and cotton blend fabric. Cleaner Production Intervention designed by IFC PACT revealed that water metering and monitoring systems in 10 Bangladesh factories saved 2.7 million cubic meter of water which is 22.5% of their total annual consumption. The case shows that each factory could save an amount of water which is equivalent to 160 times the size of an Olympic pool.We could not run business putting the existence of mother earth to extinction. So, while industry needs to apply pollution free operation system, methods for conserving and recycling this precious resource need to be adopted to stop misuse every drop of water. It is heartening to note that the apparel and textile industry in Bangladesh has started embracing sustainable business models. Brands are also putting emphasis on sustainability while going to longer business relationships with suppliers as consumers are now becoming more conscious and choosing to spend their money on products which do not harm the planet. There has been a commendable stride in sustainable apparel production in Bangladesh. The presence of as many as 67 LEED certified green factories and 220 more registered in the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) for the certifications is the telltale evident of the fact.
Factories like Denim Expert Limited, a niche denim manufacturer of Bangladesh, is setting trend in sustainable business model to be followed by others. Denim Expert has undertaken a range of remarkable initiatives to reduce, reuse and recycle water which could be a glaring example of how the second largest apparel exporting country of the world can also take the lead in global sustainable apparel production.
Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP) at Denim Expert Limited.
When industrialisation has put the very human existence into threat and spectre of climate change is looming large which is evident by the submergence of almost half of the world population under water by flood this year; the very solution could also come from within industrialisation. As the apparel and textile industry, being the largest of its kind that from history immemorial is notorious for pollution, is reversing its role with technological advancement, the world has now much to act and realise rather than regret.
The writer is the Founder and CEO of Bangladesh Apparel Exchange (BAE) and Managing Director of Denim Expert Limited.