A Business model that damages Ecology
South India’s Tiruppur City is an example of the environmental damages, non-sustainable cloth and garment manufacturing processes can cause to a City’s precious rivers and water resources. This is a case in point of how business and economic progress took place at a huge cost of causing severe environmental degradation.
Noyyal River sacrificed for having the textile industry flourish!!
Tiruppur is a famous centre for it’s cotton knitwear , particularly cotton t-shirts. During the 1990’s, Tiruppur’s economy in terms of employment and export earnings thrived due to the cotton knitwear industry. The City’s garment businesses have got many global fashion retailers as customers. However, the process of manufacturing these garments involved bleaching and chemical dyeing which polluted the Tiruppur City’s Noyyal river which was once beautiful.
Farmers lose out with their lands getting degraded
Subsequently over the years, the Noyyal river became a toxic sewer and with the river’s chemically contaminated waters creeping into the groundwater table , a major natural source of clean water was destroyed and the water became unfit to be used for most of the agricultural purposes. All farmers in and around the district that depended on the waters of the Noyyal river for irrigation were negatively impacted.
Productive Farming prevalent before the entities began their contamination
Before the dyeing and bleaching era existed prior to the 1990’s the Noyyal river which was clean supported the farming community as farmers grew a variety of crops - rice, sugarcane, groundnut, sesame, turmeric, beetroot, green chilli, tomato, cotton, tobacco, banana etc. Now the dirty, toxic contaminated waters of Noyyal river have destroyed farming occupations as the only crops that can be grown using these now toxic waters are coconuts and maize predominately used in dairy and livestock farming.
Even the coconuts that are grown now are of deteriorated quality looking small and unhealthy.
Farmer earnings now hit rock bottom!!
Villages that are even 70km downstream from Tiruppur are negatively impacted due to contamination of the Noyyal river with farmers making paltry earnings, as their agricultural lands and occupations are ruined, all due to these harmful effluents released by Tiruppur’s dye and bleaching entities!!
Tiruppur’s residents lose a precious source of water
Besides the farmers, resident people too are negatively affected with their local water resource contaminated and wasted by Tiruppur’s environmentally destructive textile manufacturing practices.
Let’s remember the water footprint of making one cotton t-shirt
Every cotton t-shirt has a water footprint with 1000’s of litres of water required to make it, beginning from growing the cotton crop, then processing of the cloth and wastage of water due to pollution involved in this process as well. Each cloth wastes, a natural resource that these days is critically scant.
It’s possible to apply natural dyes for clothes - Sustainable Alternative
This need not have been the story if Tiruppur did manufacture garments in an environmentally friendly, ethical way. For instance, Charaka, a women’s co-operative located at Bhimanakone Village in the Western Ghats region of Southern India, manufactures handloom garments using natural dyes.
These natural dyes are extracted from crops and plants available in the forests of Western Ghats; like arecanut, pomegranate, jackwood, madder root for rich colours and hues of brown, red and yellow.
Handmade clothes made with care employing rural locals
Charaka was successful in providing employment and livelihoods to women of the region. Such garments are manufactured with care for the environment and done using labour employing their hand skills in weaving naturally dyed garments using handlooms.
Additional value is added to the garments with designs made on them with elegant hand embroidery and block printing, where wood blocks are used to make designs on the garments.
Ultimate in Sustainability
Such a business model is sustainable, it employs local resources from raw materials to labour, gives jobs to rural people and there is a special value because these products are handmade, eco-friendly.
We can make sustainable choices in making purchases!!
A takeaway for us in all this, is that when we buy clothes, we choose clothes that are ethically made, clothes that are made without polluting rivers without destroying livelihoods of farmers. This is sustainable fashion.
There is more value for a cloth that’s made with care, using hand skills of local rural people, than mass produced soulless machine made mass produced clothes.
India we all know used to be popular with Khadi cloth business as well, it supported the village economy providing jobs to people of rural India. We have the choice of making conscious sustainable choices, valuing environment, labour and creating a positive change by buying clothes that helps in giving a living to local people, providing them respect and dignity for their valuable work.
All photos related to the Noyyal River taken from the following wire article
Photo credits to Neetha Deshpande