Bangladesh's industrial sectors, especially garment, are growing at the cost of environment, said ActionAid Bangladesh, a non-governmental organisation, yesterday.
“Although the garment industry in Bangladesh contributes significantly to the economy, it raises a number of environmental concerns,” said Farah Kabir, country director of ActionAid.
All aspects of the industry -- be it spinning, weaving, knitting, wet processing and apparel manufacturing -- process pollute air, water and soil.
Textile and garment sectors and their entire supply chain make 1.40 crore tonnes of carbon dioxide emission annually and consume 60,000 crore litres of water.
“So, time has come to go through a massive technological upgradation to keep the industrial development sustainable,” she said at a seminar styled 'Voices and solutions: Achieving growth through sustainable production and consumption in the fashion industry'.
ActionAid Bangladesh and Fashion Revolution jointly organised the event at the capital's Brac Centre Inn.
The garment sector has ensured the wellbeing, dignity and safety of workers, said Atiqul Islam, mayor of Dhaka North City Corporation.
The sector has installed state-of-the-art environment-friendly machines in factories but a lot more needs to be done to reduce environment contamination, said Islam, also a former president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
Globally, the textile sector is the second highest user of water, contributing to water waste by 20 percent, and the apparel industry emits 10 percent of carbon dioxide alone.
Cotton farming is responsible for 24 percent of insecticide and 11 percent pesticide production.
Furthermore, only 15 percent of the textile waste is recycled, whereas the remaining 85 percent is sent to landfill, thus negatively impacting the environment.
The wastes, as they decompose, release methane, which is a significant contributor to global warming.
Chemical dyes used in the process leach into the soil, contaminating surface and groundwater, it added.
The garment sector is working to reduce environmental pollution, but huge investment and efficiency of workers are needed, said Faruque Hassan, a former vice-president of the BGMEA.
“Please don't blame us only -- we are trying hard,” he said.
Most of the factories in Bangladesh are located along the river banks, so waste is dumped into the rivers, ActionAid said.
Asif Ibrahim, a former president of the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, hopes that the BGMEA will continue to work to reduce environment pollution through introducing modern facilities.
Hazardous chemicals are being discharged into the water bodies affecting the marine ecosystem, reducing fish population and resulting in unsuitable land for cultivation. Many rice paddies are now inundated with toxic wastewater.
Nawshin Khair, country coordinator of Fashion Revolution, and Imran Rahman, dean of the ULAB School of Business, also spoke.