Tatsat Chronicle Magazine

Fast fashion is now contaminating African waterways, and it’s a bleak picture

October 6, 2021

According to a survey, global fast fashion businesses are contributing to pollution that has made African rivers blue or as alkaline as bleach

Fast fashion is to blame for the ink-colored rivers that have appeared in some African countries. According to a new analysis by the non-profit Water Witness, untreated or inadequately treated effluent from textile industries, which is usually blue or indigo in colour, is harming African rivers. Trade agreements, tax breaks, and low-cost labour have all aided the industry’s rapid expansion. According to the research, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Lesotho, and Madagascar did not follow pollution control guidelines and dumped untreated garbage in rivers containing dangerous metals, dyes, bleaching chemicals, and other pollutants.

Adidas, Asos, Calvin Klein, Carrefour, Disney, GAP, H&M, Mango, Marks and Spencer, Tommy Hilfiger, Puma, and Zara are among the brands that source clothing from African countries due to lower production and labour costs. Tanzania’s national water agency declared that “the laws are stringent but never enforced.” The pollution is obvious, but authorities are unconcerned.” Two key issues were identified in the report: Cotton and leather manufacturing as inputs, which rely heavily on chemicals, pesticides, and fertilisers, offer considerable water concerns. Second, it is unclear who sources and handles these basic resources.

On paper, several clothing businesses claim to be committed to sustainability, but are they? According to the research, the sustainability manager of a multinational brand sourcing in Ethiopia claims there is “very little commitment on the ground.” Another brand blamed the government, saying, “Water management is not our problem.” Fashion is well-known for slowly harming the environment. According to the Worldwide Fashion Agenda, the global textiles and garment industry consumed 79 billion cubic metres of water in 2015. Nearly 8% of the world’s cotton is grown in Africa, and its production contributes considerably to the economies of 37 African countries. Cotton production, on the other hand, depletes water resources and causes salinization, soil erosion, and deterioration. Other stages of production comprise a variety of water-polluting activities, ranging from fabric manufacture to textile processing to garment manufacturing and eventually end-product consumption.