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OPINION

Dependency On Groundwater

A Major Concern For Environment

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11th-Aug-2019       
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Zahid Hossain Firoz :
The export-oriented readymade garments (RMG) sector along with the textile and clothing industries in Bangladesh has been playing a pivotal role in facilitating the country's export earnings, contributing more than 83.4% of total export. This sector is one of the potential sectors for the best utilization of demographic dividend by creating huge employment opportunities for the young generation, specifically employment for female folk. The pace of the fasted growing RMG and clothing industry in Bangladesh already generated employments 4.4 million people of which more than 80% comprised of vulnerable women folk.
The use of water sources for highly potential RMG and textile sector has now appeared as a major concern for environment. The dyeing and washing as well as increasing recycling have contributed to the severe pollution in the surrounding areas of the industry. So, time has come to think about the appropriate ways for improving surface water quality by reducing pollution in line with 6.3 SDG target.
Most of the garment factories are situated in Dhaka, Gazipur, Savar and Narayangonj and using more than 250 litres of water for washing and dyeing one kilogram of fabrics while the global best practice is 70 litres. Bangladesh's textile industry consumes 1,500 billion litres of groundwater a year for washing and dyeing fabrics, according to a report published on 2014 by partners for Water Programme of the Netherlands in cooperation with the Bangladesh government.  
According to Dhaka WASA's annual report in 2015-2016, yearly about 895 billion litres water is being supplied for Dhaka city dwellers where around 80 percent of its supply comes from groundwater extracted through 760 deep tube wells and around 20 percent from four plants that treat surface water at Sayedabad and Chandnighat in Dhaka and Godnail and Sonakanda in Narayanganj. Eventually groundwater in the central part of the country is depleting and at alarming which is evident when Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation sharing the country's groundwater zoning map 2004 and 2010 which shows groundwater table is lowering dramatically in Dhaka and its surrounding districts. In addition, situation is becoming concern as this area is situated at central hydrological region of the state where surface water is scarce and soil formation is occurred at Pleistocene geological age whose characteristic has limited the surface water infiltration into aquifer.
To address the water crises in textile industry, some international partners and buyers who buy our services and goods has been trying to adapt water efficiency in industry. The Water PACT Bangladesh lead by IFC is one of those partnerships founded to drive the wet processing in textile sector in the country towards a more sustainable performance and better water and resource efficiency. There are also a few examples of big fashion brands working to improve and safeguard their water usage. Levi's, in partnership with one of its Chinese suppliers, recently made 100,000 pairs of jeans using 100 percent recycled water. In 2012, WWF and H&M conducted an evaluation of H&M's water related challenges, to evaluate the company's new water strategy. Under water strategy, H&M has stated the five steps; one of them is internal action: improving the use of water and reducing pollution within their operations and suppliers' factories. In this regard, H & M has already started looking for water efficient factory during ordering the readymade cloth.
In addition, Bangladesh government also thinking the above issue which has been reflected in her 7th Five Year Plan (FYP). Under the 7th FYP, the government aims to attain a number of broad goals, including good governance in environmental sustainability. For attaining the environmental sustainability in industry, 7th FYP recommends reducing groundwater dependence through taking some initiatives, and these are- a) reducing industry dependence on groundwater through strict licensing and fee collection for use of groundwater b) conducting a national wide survey on availability of ground water and sustainable management of aquifer c) exploring options for rainwater harvesting and d) Introduce zero discharge policy. I hope under the leadership of Honourable Prime Minister above citing in 7th FYP would be applied in industry very soon, especially must be considered during establish 100 Economic Zones in Bangladesh.
Rainwater harvesting which has been emphasised at 7th FYP and Prime Minister's speech delivered in many programmes would be the best option for reducing the dependency on groundwater and recharging the aquifer. Some of the best examples already have created in factory by the initiative of factory owner and non-government development organization need to cascade over the country.
WaterAid, Bangladesh Rain Forum, BUET have been working together with factory owners for constructing rainwater harvesting, and their experience say in beginning it seems that rainwater harvesting in factory would be expensive, but not if rainwater is used for cloth dyeing and washing. Let's start to use rainwater in factory though it is not enough to meet all water demand but it will contribute to ensuring water security which is prime condition to our existence.

(Zahid Hossain Firoz, Working at International Development Organization, zahidho@yahoo.com)

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