We have plenty of water in this world of ours to quench the thirst of our population, however it tends to be in the wrong place. In England, it seems to be always raining so it’s understandable for people in countries like England not to see that for a lot of places in the world water is sacred and rain is a rare sight. With this in mind it seems strange that the countries where we make our clothes and farm our cotton, which needs so much water are the places in the world where water is desperately needed. For example, last year Cambodia saw a rise in western brands swarming to Cambodia for duty free production. According to water.org, Approximately 4 million people out of the total population in Cambodia lack access to safe water, and 6 million lack access to improved sanitation. With approximately 80 percent of Cambodians living in rural areas, poor access to safe water and sanitation. And yet, when making just one t-shirt we use approximately 2,270 litres of clean water. Where do we expect that water to come from?
Water pollution is a huge and growing global issue. Water that becomes contaminated with chemicals, whether it’s chemicals from production or incorrectly disposed of waste kills animals and land life. In poor countries where water purification is rare and expensive, contaminated water can lead to life threatening diseases and infant mortality. However, all is not lost, amazing organisations and charities such as Frank Water provides the means and educates people around the world in poorer communities to clean the water themselves.
Sewage is one major concern when it comes to water pollution. Factories and mills are required by law to clean their water whether this is sewage or chemicals from production, however dumpling still happens, causing dirty water which travels down the streams and with it pollutes everything else. These are some of the things living in countries like the UK where we expect clean water to flow through our pipes we just take for granted.
Sewage however in itself, does not kill fish. In fact, it can nourish them. Sewage suppose the growth of other forms of life which consume oxygen. And ironically it’s the lack of oxygen that kills the fish.
We can survive a few days without food, but we cannot survive without water. Seeing the dirty, rubbish filed, dyed water surrounding factories is a harrowing image, and considering that 90% of waste water in developing countries is actually discharged into river without treatment makes it dawn on you that this is actually a really common problem. Toxic chemicals used to produce garments when not cleaned will pollute rivers and therefore in many cases polluting communities only source of drinking water. The dyes from garment and fabric production is very high, and the harmful chemicals that this comes with is also high. Companies are requiring by law to clean their water after using it. And brands talk about their water treatment centres, and how the audits from the factories show they have A* facilities. BUT, does anyone talk about what happens to the water after it’s been cleaned? What happens to the dye’s and the dirt that comes out of the water? No one does
Some of you may have been to water treatment centres (and will never forget the nose burning smell) but some of you may have no idea what I’m talking about. Basically, all the water that’s used needs to go somewhere to be cleaned. You normally find a big well or some sort of water bubble which is attached to the factories, this ideally should go to a large recycling company who do their magic, if any factory tells you they clean it themselves I would highly suggest an investigation. They don’t need to be huge and fancy but they do need to be large enough to go through all the needed process and you need at least a handful of very clever people with many letters after their names to make sure the science behind it is correct.
Dirty water generally goes through two stages of treatment. The primary stage is like a sieve, filtering out large objects and moves all the sludge into a tank. The second stage removes and treats the organic matter. The remaining liquid is chlorinated and then either reused or turning into drinking water.
The water treatment centre we work with in India is HUGE. The water is collected from many factories and tanneries around this area in Chennai. The water goes through many processes, and then tadarr we have gorgeous clean water. But. where’s all the dirt gone? It hasn’t just vanished. It actually goes into landfill. It looks like a giant dried up desert. 40% of this will naturally biodegrade, but the rest will just sit there forever. Again, like my point about landfills, it’s just a lazy exit point option.
So, in work at the moment is a project we are doing as part of our foundation, we are in talks with a building company in Chennai, for them to break down this landfill, turn it into building supplies, and build something new. This is an issue I am very passionate about, so will hopefully have more solutions to this coming soon.