Pollution from the Garment Industry Wreaks Havoc across Asia

July 23, 2013

From China to Bangladesh, rivers run purple, blue and black with waste from garment factories. Locals say they can tell what colors are in fashion by looking at the river. Meanwhile, the air is so thick with toxic fumes- it causes regular nosebleeds, fainting, and retching- especially in children.

Rampant pollution from the garment industry is taking its toll on human and environmental health across Asia. With China being the world’s leading exporter of clothing and Bangladesh a close second, Goldman Prize recipients in both countries are working to keep the industry accountable.

Following the collapse of a garment factory that killed more than 1,000 employees, Bangladesh’s garment industry has come under increased scrutiny this year. 2009 Goldman Prize recipient from Bangladesh and leading environmental attorney, Rizwana Hasan, was recently quoted in the New York Times article, “Bangladesh Pollution, Told in Colors and Smells.”

“Nobody in the country, at least not at the government level, is thinking about sustainable development. All the natural resources have been severely degraded and depleted,” Hasan said.

Hasan was awarded the Goldman Prize for her efforts to reduce the impact of Bangladesh’s exploitative and environmentally-devastating ship breaking industry.

2012 Goldman Prize recipient Ma Jun was awarded the Goldman Prize for his work to expose environmental violations within China’s electronics supply chain, putting pressure on companies like Apple to clean up their production processes.

More recently, Ma Jun and his team at the Institute for Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE), have also put pressure on the apparel industry to clean up their act. One of his recent reports on the industry was featured in the Fast Company article “It’s Not Just Electronics: Delving into the Problems with China’s Apparel Supply Chain.”