As per a report by Water Witness International, global fast fashion brands have been found to drive pollution that has turned the waters of African rivers as alkaline as bleach. The report featured the polluted rivers in Tanzania and Lesotho in southern Africa for underscoring the risks posed as global fashion brands, attracted by tax incentives and cheap labor, progressively source garments from African contractors.
According to Katrina Charles, a University of Oxford expert on water security and quality, fashion brands can and do produce clothing that is environmentally sustainable, and consumer pressure is primary in encouraging more. Charles further stated that the textiles sector opened up opportunities for African nations, comprising jobs and growth. However, these would not pay off if adequate working conditions and pollution management were not ensured, added Charles.
In Lesotho, WWI researchers found a river that was visibly contaminated with blue dye used in denim jeans. Meanwhile, specimens taken from the Msimbazi river in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, tested a pH of 12 near a textiles factory. The Msimbazi is used for irrigation, washing, and more by the local communities, stated the report.
WWI has recognized nearly 50 international brands that source or have sourced their clothes from nations in Africa. These comprise Asos, Inditex’s Zara, and H&M. However, the report did not tie the pollution to the supply chain of any company.
As per WWI director, Nick Hepworth, international brands could kick in superior practices, however to date, their demeanor in Africa has been of little help for ensuring adequate sanitation and water for factory staff, restraining water hoarding by contracting factories, and rife pollution. Hepworth further added the flipside, stating that fast fashion could be a force for change. However, investors and brands are required to take the lead.