RiverBlue Exposes Toxic Textile Mills in Asia

 
 Citarum River, Bandung, West Java, Indonesia. Courtesy of RiverBlue

Citarum River, Bandung, West Java, Indonesia. Courtesy of RiverBlue

The documentary RiverBlue exposes fashion's devastating impact, specifically from textile mills, on riverfront communities in Asian countries. In the movie's trailer, Sunita Narain, Director General for Science and Environment in India proclaims “We are committing hydrocide… we are deliberately murdering our rivers.” The film inspects several river communities’ incapable of preserving aquatic wildlife and the livelihoods of indigenous locals. Indonesia’s most toxic waterways, like the Citarum River, are becoming a public health crisis with increasing instances of cancer and other illnesses posing a threat for local communities who rely on these waters for drinking and bathing.

 Buriganga River, Bangladesh. Courtesy of RiverBlue

Buriganga River, Bangladesh. Courtesy of RiverBlue

Part of the film’s inspiration was derived from a tainted satellite image of Southern China’s Pearl River.  Gemini Award-winning Director, David McIlvride, noticed “a dark blue streak of pollution running through the river system” originating from the denim-filled washhouses surrounding the river. McIlvride took this opportunity to expose the impact of consumer choice with low cost materials.

After the North American Free Trade Agreement was acknowledged in 1994 socially unconscious manufactures went overseas to Asian nations to exploit low wages and weak environmental regulations. This lead to "2.5 billion gallons of wastewater contaminating ~70% of rivers and lakes in China”pointed out in the film . The movie also reported that one pair of jeans uses 920 gallons of water to produce. This amount is staggering when we incorporate the average jeans purchased by Americans per year, which is around four pairs.

The film asks consumers to exercise their buying power by seeking clothes made in an environmentally friendly manner. One socially conscious fashion company highlighted in the film is Italian-based Italdenim. The company’s slogan “committed to perfection” is directly related to their sustainable development of materials. Italdenim advanced cogeneration plan and Environmental Engineering Division are eliminating CO2 emissions and wastewater connected to fabric processing. I encourage you to watch the documentary and reconsider the environmental impact you are making when purchasing clothes.    

References: 

The Death of the Citarum River: Indonesia's Most Toxic Waterway

How Fashion is Killing Rivers Worldwide

The Most Polluted River in the World, Citarum River, Indonesia