Save Earth, Save Water: Water Stewardship in Textile Industry


According to UNESCO, over 80% of sewage water in developing countries is discharged untreated, contaminates nearby water bodies. Presently, the garments industry represents 20% of the industrial water pollution worldwide. The dyeing process for fiber/textile is a major water pollutant. It is expected that by 2050, water pollution due to the textile industry will get doubled, making it ranks 2nd among the polluting industries on the earth.

Water Pollution and Water Scarcity in India

Many of the industries especially the textile industry in our country contributes to water pollution. The effluent discharges of industries resulting in water unfit for domestic use or irrigation. For instance, once the industrial units near Ahmedabad discharged garbage into the underground water and a large cost was incurred to recover the water from contamination. Additionally, fluctuations in rainfall due to climate change and blocking of drainage systems due to building activities caused contamination to water bodies across the country.

Risks of Water Scarcity in Textile Industry

The problem of water scarcity if increases it will be a threat to all industries especially for the textile industry where water is used for washing, dyeing, and other processing works. The textile industry contributes a lot to the economy of the country and is water-intensive. If India is perceived to be a water-scarce country, then there is a threat to the growth of international business.  Climate change is affecting the availability and accessibility of water. The rising uncertainty of water availability should be addressed managerially, financially, and scientifically. In Tamil Nadu, as per the court order, garment manufacturers in the Tirupur unit adopted a Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) method to reduce water usage.

Challenges to Sustainable Water Management

There are 2 key challenges for sustainable water management in the textile industry. Firstly, the garment industry in India is disaggregated. There are many small and medium companies in the industry and most of them do not have adequate funds to upgrade and operate expensive equipment. Secondly, industrialists lack the confidence to install resource-efficient equipment for a circular economy due to the unstable policies of the government. Another reason is that the treatment of wastewater is expensive and complicated in the textile sector. Hence the challenges relate to innovation-investments-infrastructure.

Measures for Effective Sustainable Water Management

The apparel industry is required to focus on its R&D to find innovative solutions for water saving and improving the production process, whereas government should adopt policies such as PLI (Product-linked Incentive) scheme, wastewater reuse, stricter penalties for polluters, etc., that helps industry to practice sustainable business.

Sustainable business firms are essential for sustainable living and consumption. It requires collaboration and innovative partnerships to face the climate change effects, mishaps, and supply chain disruptions. There should be sufficient funds and clarity in ownership to promote multi-stakeholder participation to eliminate risks, overcome challenges and make use of opportunities to reach the desired goal.

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