Skip to main content

Cheap Made in India T-shirts sold in US, Europe "contributing" to water pollution crisis in India, warns "Newsweek"

Counterview Desk
In a scathing critique, top US journal “Newsweek” has warned American and European consumers that if they were wearing T-shirts with the 'Made in India' tag – bought from Gap, Tommy Hilfiger, Wal-Mart or other malls – they should know they might have “contributed” heavily in a “water pollution crisis that has destroyed almost 30,000 family-owned farms” in India.
Competing with their counterparts in Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, China and Bangladesh to sell T-shirts that cost as low as $5, Indian T-shirts are made mainly from the Netaji Apparel Park, situated in Tamil Nadu’s Tirupur, known as India’s ‘Knit City’, whose “rivers are often red or purple with runoff from nearby factories”, it said.

What is happening in Tirupur, says the journal, is just a replication of the “near critically polluted waters like Bangladesh’s River Buriganga and Cambodia’s Mekong River”, where “life-sustaining farms are dying, potable water has become toxic and locals are now at great risk for serious illness, all as a result of industrial-scale clothing manufacturing.”
Authored by Adam Matthews, the “Newsweek” cover story (August 21) says that “at the core of this environmental and health disaster is the poor state of regulatory institutions throughout much of South and East Asia”, where environmental preservation is “often trumped by the need to provide a business environment that can compete with more corrupt countries.”
Titled “The Environmental Crisis in Your Closet”, the article points to how “American taxpayers have played a key role in turning Tirupur into a manufacturing powerhouse.” It all began in 2002, when the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) loaned $25 million to the government of Tamil Nadu and a local clothing industry group, the Tirupur Exporters Association, to finance a new water-delivery system.”
“Newsweek” quotes a 2006 press note issued by the US consulate in Chennai as praising the USAID saying how before the American intervention, the local industry “was running out of water, a critical input for dyeing and bleaching.”
While the “USAID project, which piped in clean water from a stretch of the Noyyal in a nearby farming region, helped the local industry boom” and between 2002 and 2012”, as a result of which “US knitwear imports from India jumped from $571 million to $1.25 billion”, “All that growth has had devastating consequences for the environment and people living in the area.”
Thus, while the textile sector has boomed, those who grew “rice, banana, coconut and turmeric” have suffered loss of livelihood. “There is no cultivation of the land, no income”, the writer quotes a farmer as complaining. “The small-scale agriculture lifestyle that characterized the region for centuries has fully collapsed.”
There are now “abandoned brick homes painted light blue and topped with red tile roofs dominated the main square”, he says, adding now, “over 60 villages have been transformed into ghost towns.”
While a nearby dam was “supposed to update agricultural irrigation practices in Tirupur”, the situation by mid-2000s reached such a point that “the water was so saturated with chemicals, salts and heavy metals that local farmers were petitioning the Madras High Court—the highest court in Tamil Nadu—to not release the water into their fields”, the article says.
There has been adverse effect on health on locals because of the “toxins downstream”, it says, adding, a health camp by local doctors “found that about 30 percent of villagers suffered from symptoms—including joint pain, gastritis, problems breathing and ulcers—connected to waterborne diseases.”
“A 2007 study by a local nongovernmental organization found that Tirupur’s 729 dyeing units were flushing 23 million gallons per day of mostly untreated wastewater into the Noyyal River, the majority of which collected in the Orathupalayam Dam reservoir. When officials finally flushed the dam in the mid-2000s, 400 tons of dead fish were found at the bottom”, the article adds.

Comments

TRENDING

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

Mental health: India's 95% patients "deprived" of medical care, treatment gap 70%

By Moin Qazi*
Among the many challenges India faces, the most underappreciated is the ongoing mental health crisis. Mental illness is actually India’s ticking bomb. An estimated 56 million Indians suffer from depression, and 38 million from anxiety disorders. For those who suffer from mental illness, life can seem like a terrible prison from which there is no hope of escape; they are left forlorn and abandoned, stigmatized, shunned and misunderstood.

Modi model? "Refusal" to build Narmada's micro canals, keep Kutch dry; help industry

By Medha Patkar*
This is the latest photograph of the Kutch Branch Canal (KBC) of the Sardar Sarovar, as of April 8! What does it show, expose, and what memories do you recall? Is it dry or dead? Is it a canal or a carcass of the same?

Bill Gates "promoting" GMO, Bt cotton, like cartels that have roots in Hitler's Germany

By Our Representative
World-renowned environmental leader and ecologist Dr Vandana Shiva has expressed concern that Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft Corporation, has joined the bandwagon of “a poison cartel of three" – Monsanto and Bayer, Syngenta and ChemChina, Dow and DuPont – all of whom allegedly have “roots in Hitler’s Germany and finding chemicals to kill people”.

Indian talc products contain "contaminated" asbestos structures, can cause cancer: Study

Counterview Desk
A recent study, using polarizing light microscopy, transmission electron microscopy (TEM), electron diffraction, and X-ray analysis on multiple over-the-counter Indian talc products for the presence of asbestos, has concluded that large quantities of body talc products are likely to pose a public health risk for asbestos-related diseases, especially for the cancers related to asbestos exposure.

Why are you silent on discrimination against Dalit jawans? Macwan questions Modi

By Rajiv Shah
Close on the heels of releasing his book in Gujarati, "Bhed Bharat", which lists 319 cases of atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis across the country over the last five years, well-known Gujarat Dalit rights leader Martin Macwan has shot an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, telling him the reasons why he does not want vote for the BJP.

Emergence of a rare Dalit teacher in IIT-Kanpur "disturbed" certain faculty members

By PS Krishnan, IAS (Retd)*
Dr Subrahmanyam Sadrela, a faculty member in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Kanpur since January 1, 2018, and one of the rare Dalit members of the faculty in IIT group of institutions, is facing the threat of revocation of his PhD thesis, and thereby also jeopardizing his job and career.

RTE in remote areas? Govt of India "plans" to close down 2.4 lakh schools

By Srijita Majumder*
The Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009, came into effect on April 1, 2010, for the first time made it obligatory on the part of the State to provide free and compulsory education to all children from 6-14 years of age in India. The Act, despite its limitations, had progressive elements like neighbourhood schools, community participation, ban on corporal punishment, no detention, continuous and comprehensive evaluation and it hence it appeared that India was not far from achieving universal elementary education.

Investigation shows Narmada downstream "seriously" polluted. Reason: apathy, greed

By Rohit Prajapati, Krishnakant, Swati Desai*
Our investigation regarding quality of water flowing in the Narmada river downstream of the Sardar Sarovar Dam (SSD), dated April 6, 2019, between 11.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. reiterates, what is commonly known now, that the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) is planned without considering its impact on the downstream Narmada River stretch of 161 kilometres, its ecology, biodiversity and fishery, and lakhs of people living close to and dependent on the river directly or indirectly. This, in turn, has led to its present disastrous state.

Election Commission suffering from worst-ever "credibility crisis": Ex-bureaucrats

Counterview Desk
In an open letter to President Ram Nath Kovind, a group of ex-bureaucrats have lamented ‘weak-kneed’ responses of the Election Commission of India (ECI) in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Citing various violations of the model code of conduct, and pointing towards how ECI has taken little action, the letter asks the President to tell ECI to “conduct itself in a manner where its independence, fairness, impartiality and efficiency are not questioned.”