Apparel production by US, European firms killing Africa’s rivers

2021-09-07 18:15:24

Production of clothing, including for high street brands in Europe, and the United States is killing Africa’s rivers through polluting discharges of untreated industrial wastewater.

Global apparel brands are helping drive pollution that has dyed African rivers blue or turned their waters as alkaline as bleach, according to a report published in August by Water Witness International (WWI).

The WWI report featured the polluted rivers in Lesotho in southern Africa and Tanzania to highlight the risks posed as global brands increasingly source garments from contractors in Africa, attracted by cheap labour and tax incentives.

Global brands could force better practices, but so far their presence in Africa has done little to stem rife pollution, water hoarding by contracting factories or even ensure adequate water and sanitation for factory staff, Nick Hepworth, director of WWI and author of the report, told Reuters.

In Lesotho, researchers found a river visibly polluted with blue dye for denim jeans. Samples taken from Tanzania’s Msimbazi river in Dar es Salaam meanwhile tested a pH of 12 - the same as bleach - near a textiles factory, the report said, adding local communities use the Msimbazi for washing, irrigation and more.

It identified some 50 international brands that source or have sourced their clothes from African nations, including Inditex’s Zara, ASOS and H&M, but didn’t tie the pollution to any company’s supply chain.

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