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Chinese textile boom has degraded environment: Report
Apr '12
Five Chinese grassroots environmental organizations, which include the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPEA) and Friends of Nature and other Chinese environmental campaigners, have come up with a report “Clean up the Fashion Industry”.

The report says that 46 domestic and global apparel brands are being supplied by Chinese textile firms that do not adhere to the country's environmental laws.

The report names Chinese labels Anta, 361 Degrees and Youngor Group as well as global brands Adidas, Nike, Armani, Wal-mart, Carrefour, Calvin Klein, Guess, Levi Strauss, Burberry and Zara among the 46 brands that have purchased their supplies from textile firms with poor waste discharge records.

The findings of the report have caused a renewed concern about the high price the world's second-largest economy is paying in terms of environment and health.

In 2010, China processed 52 percent of the world fibre and accounted for 34 percent share in global clothing item exports, according to the statistics from the China Textile Industry Association.

However, during the same year, the textile industry in China released 2.5 billion tons of untreated water, which made the textile sector the third-largest water polluter among 39 industries, as per the official figures from China's environmental agencies.

The situation is worrying as two-thirds of Chinese cities lack adequate water supply and 300 million rural inhabitants do not have access to safe drinking water. Moreover, urban water sources in one in five cities fail to meet minimum hygiene standards.

The textile industry utilizes large quantities of water at various stages of production from washing of fibres to bleaching, dyeing and washing of finished products. Since the industry uses over 2,000 different dyes and chemicals, the waste water often contains chemicals and heavy metals that are important causes of environmental degradation and are harmful to humans.

In case of China, the problem becomes more severe as the Chinese textile industry uses around three times more clean water than the global average to produce the same amount of fabric, owing to reliance on traditional technologies, the Ministry of Environmental Protection says.

There is a technological gap in textile industry's treatment of pollution, according to Ma Jun, Director of IPEA and one of the co-authors of the report.

The report says the high cost of latest technology need for treating waste water should not be an excuse for illegal discharge of untreated waste water.

Fujian, Guangdong, Jiangsu, Shandong and Zhejiang provinces are major textile bases in China, which together account for 90 percent of total untreated water released by the entire textile industry in China, the study reveals.

The report suggests that China needs to harden its environmental regulations as the existing ones are not strong enough to deter the polluters.

As one province tightens its supervision of environmental laws, polluting firms relocate to other provinces, taking their pollution along. Hence, the environment laws should be uniformly tightened and implemented all across China, the report concludes.

Fibre2fashion News Desk - China

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