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How can textile companies and the government of India collaborate to address the issue of water management in the textile sector?

Delay in adopting water sustainability both financially & environmentally costly
A concerted and collective effort from textile businesses and the Indian government is key to address the issue of water stewardship in the textile sector. Fibre2Fashion asks industry experts to share their views on collaborative measures that can boost sustainability in the textile industry.

There are several ways in which governments and industry can collaborate. But first I would like to highlight the need for better implementation and enforcement of existing policies -- I think that will achieve better results than forming new policies. Stable policies are also important for businesses to make better investment decisions. Businesses can be supported through more awareness programmes and workshops about water saving and water efficient techniques. Technology compendiums can be prepared and shared with the industry. Then again, an area of collaboration is collection and maintenance of regular data on water consumption, use and discharge. Suitable programmes can then be designed with desired solutions and technologies. I think that there can be aspirational benchmarks or targets that the industry, experts and government can jointly set for water use efficiency. I would like to reiterate that targets should be supported through suitable incentives and easy availability of required knowledge and finance.

The government and the textile sector can both play their part in managing water better. The industry must be proactive in adopting latest technology and conserve water; they must not wait for strict regulations to force changes upon them. Any delay in adopting water sustainability will be both financially and environmentally costly. The government, in consultation with the industry, should set viable targets and incentives for the private sector to transition their processes. Zero liquid discharge (ZLD) plants can be mandated for new textile parks and freshwater consumption should be minimised. Major schemes such as the PLI Scheme, announced recently for the 13 sectors including textiles, should be leveraged to include water sustainability goals to avail benefits. There are several programmes that have facilitated wider adoption of cleaner energy and energy efficiency solutions. These programmes have required concerted action from government, businesses, international organisations and financers amongst others. There is immense scope to design similar programmes focused on sustainable water use in the apparel and textile sector.

Most of the water management interventions in the textile sector are in silos or region- and cluster-specific and limited to within the fence. Water management within the fence is not sufficient to address the pressing water risk faced by the textile sector particularly when supply chain clusters are in water risk hotspots, where the types of risk require more than on-site efficiency and good wastewater management.

Collective action, coupled with comprehensive water stewardship by individual facilities, is the only way to fully address water-related risks in these hotspots, and to take advantage of the opportunities water stewardship creates. There is a growing need to build capacities, advance discourse on water stewardship by sharing good practices and contextualising them within the catchment context of increasing water stress, poor water quality, poor governance and manifestations of all these on the communities and local stakeholders.

Participation in water governance should be considered the apex of the government water strategy, as improved water governance will ultimately be the vehicle through which sustainable water balance, good water quality, access to WASH and the protection of important water-related areas will be realised. Water security is a water governance issue, water stewardship is the pathway to contribute to improving water governance and water security.

These gaps can be filled by active participation of the government, textile companies, brands and other textile stakeholders through multi-stakeholder consultations. The government should advocate such forums and provide incentives to the companies to increase the adoption of water stewardship by the textile companies to work not just within the fence on improving water use efficiency and wastewater management but going beyond the fence to work collaboratively with the communities and other stakeholders towards water security measures.

Published on: 21/07/2021

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.

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