Reports reveal that garment manufacturing is killing Africa rivers

YarnsandFibers News Bureau 2021-08-25 04:45:40 – South Africa

According to a new report, garment production, especially for high street brands in Europe, the UK, and the United States, is poisoning Africa's waterways by polluted discharges of untreated industrial effluent.

Water Witness International’s new report suggests the textile industry is competing with local populations and the environment for precious water in Africa, and industrial requirements are sometimes prioritized over human rights to water.

It is now encouraging the sector to implement excellent water stewardship immediately, as well as factory certification against best practice standards and public disclosure of water performance, in order to distinguish responsible businesses.

According to the report, pre-pandemic, fashion exports earned income of US$4.6 billion per year, far exceeding any European donor's yearly contribution to Africa. Africa currently has a significant presence in the global fashion sector, which was valued at US$2.5 trillion in 2019 and employed 75 million people.

While Africa recognizes the importance of the textile industry in its social and economic development, concerns about the shortage of its water resources are rising.

Realizing these socioeconomic advantages would need prudent resource management, especially given fashion is one of the world's thirstiest and most polluting industries, posing substantial environmental dangers to Africa. Because of depletion and degradation, rocketing demand, climate change, and deep-seated financial, economic, and governance issues, the region's water resources, and water ecosystems are very vulnerable and are already under severe stress.

The authors of the study state that they are not advocating for an end to fashion sourcing in Africa, but rather action and assurance that sourcing and manufacturing of items in Africa are based on sustainable resource usage, fair working conditions, and banning child labor.

Producers, brands, retailers, investors, governments, and high street shoppers must act immediately to guarantee that the fashion sector in Africa has a ‘fair water footprint,' so that much-needed job creation and growth are divorced from the devastating water consequences we are seeing. They outlined what each of these groups must do to ensure zero pollution, safe water and sanitation, equitable withdrawals, climate resilience, and ecosystem protection so that Africa can become a global role model for sustainable production and decent employment in the fashion sector rather than becoming another victim of "fast fashion”.

The research identifies five hazards connected with the expansion of garment manufacturing, which corresponds with water scarcity in Africa: Pollution created by untreated industrial effluent and wastes;  Insufficient water supply, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH); Water usage for production that is sustainable, egalitarian, and robust; Water hazards in the supply chain; and Challenges in Water Governance.

It urges the implementation of the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) standards, which guide and recognize good water performance through a third-party audit.

The report highlights that stakeholders in the textile and apparel industries have a clear potential to embrace AWS water stewardship as a practical and strategic contribution to Africa's sustainable development and Covid recovery. A number of sector stakeholders, including Tooku in Tanzania, Indochine, H&M, PVH, and Ethiopia's Industrial Parks Development Corporation, are promising to commit to excellent water management by aligning with the AWS Standard.

Countries and businesses that promote water conservation and demonstrate and report strong water performance in textile and apparel manufacturing will reap significant rewards. Those that don't will likely face water scarcity and reputational issues.

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