The ReFashion Hub is a collective that aims to raise awareness and drive conversation about water stewardship in India’s textile industry for long term positive climate impact. As a part of this initiative, a national level multi-stakeholder consultation was organized by Centre for Responsible Business (CRB) with support from Alliance For Water Stewardship and Water Management Forum (under Institute of Engineers India), on 18 May 2021, to build consensus on establishing wastewater as a resource and dealing with it in a sustainable way by the textile industry.
Shri Upendra Prasad Singh, Secretary, Ministry of Textiles delivered the keynote address and subject matter experts such as Mr. Rijit Sengupta, CEO, CRB, Er. Narendra Singh, President, Institution of Engineers of India, Dr K Ramesh, Senior Manager – Process Engineering/R&D, Tamil Nadu Water Investment Company, Chetan Kumar Sangole, Head, Sustainability Desk, Mahratta Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, Ankur Khanna (Owner, Khanna Industries), Dinesh Chopra (Member, Indian Chemicals Council and Ex-Director, Honeywell) and Archana Datta, National Coordinator, for India, Switch Asia – RPAC, United Nations Environment Program, discussed various aspects of wastewater reuse, policy interventions and incentives as panelists of the workshop.
During the virtual conference, industry leaders, textile industry bodies, government and development agencies addressed various aspects of wastewater reuse, holistic perspective of wastewater as a resource, policy recommendations, scheme incentives, and built a collaborative approach towards long-term and sustained action on waste management by the textile industry in India.
Assuring his support to the campaign, Shri Upendra Prasad Singh, Secretary, Minister of Textiles, said, “Wastewater management is critical for survival of the textile industry in India and not a subject of charity. It is the responsibility of all stakeholders including the government, textile bodies and industries to invest in green technologies that conserve water.” Underlining the need for such initiatives he further said “There is enough knowledge on the supply side of water and wastewater management but not on the demand side. Efficient water and wastewater management can help suppliers/buyers engage brands/consumers.” Further, he suggested ‘condition assessment of clusters’ to generate baseline about need for water and wastewater management in textile and other high water-use clusters. Finally, he opined there is not as much awareness and information about water footprint of industries as is there on carbon/energy footprint and hence there is a need to raise awareness and knowledge about its importance.
A 2019 World Resources Institute (WRI) report ranked India as the 13th most water stressed country globally. The Indian textile industry alone uses 425,000,000 gallons of water daily and approximately 500 gallons of water are used in the production of just one pair of jeans. Globally, by 2050, the textile industry is expected to double its water contamination, making it the second-largest polluting industry on earth. One of the major causes of concern is the high usage of water and the excessive water pollution that is caused especially in dyeing and processing. Fatal contamination of water sources has led to a gamut of regulations for the treatment and discharge of wastewater. Set up of common effluent treatment plants (CETPs) and, in some cases, ZLD systems has become a norm in India.
Mr. Rijit Sengupta, CEO, CRB said, “Centre for Responsible Business has the mandate to promote sustainability, sustainable businesses and also oversee how businesses integrate sustainability in their core operations. In a country like India, when we talk about sustainability there is a need to strike a balance between the three aspects – economic, social and environmental, which involves trade-offs and compromises. In case of water, this implies striking the balance between – water as a key industrial input, societal need for equitable access to water and ensuring conservation of water as a resource. In our quest to find solutions to help strike this balance, CRB advocates for applying the principles of circular economy/resource efficiency in industrial/sectoral strategies to enable water use efficiency. Finally, the process of finding solutions is also critical and needs to be co-designed locally based on multi-stakeholder collaboration.”
During the multi-stakeholder consultation, it was discussed that there is a need to raise awareness on water stewardship, existing incentives and policies that aim to address the issue of water conservation in the textile industry. Experts also urged the industry to adapt sustainable business practices and ensure that they look at wastewater as a resource. It was highlighted that the model used in Haridwar and Sarai which is hybrid annuity model-based sewage treatment plant has been successful and the textile industry can apply learnings from there for wastewater treatment. A key point for consideration was that current and updated data will underpin any intervention that is planned. Moreover, the Ministry of Textiles can facilitate awareness programs and enable cross location learnings to develop a sustainable roadmap for the sector in consultation and collaboration with other ministries.
There is a need to enable the textile processing industry for process optimization by adopting best clean techniques, incentives for automation and up-gradation of machinery and effective mechanisms to reuse water. Industries should be apprised of clear policies and how it can provide cost benefits. Cross sectoral learnings are essential to track technological developments in other sectors and customize those for the textile industry to ensure best possible and sustainable wastewater treatment. The industry and governments at various levels are collaborating on solutions to address this crisis. Moreover, consumers are being more conscious of sustainable production and consumption. It is evident that a long term, collaborative approach towards better water management in the sector is required.