Fashion Revolution Week 2018: Bangladesh and India's Toxic Tanneries

I went to see a screening of River Blue as part of Fashion Revolution week at the London College of Fashion last night to find out more about fashion waste on the environment.  I didn’t expect to be genuinely shocked watching it. What hit home most for me and is closely linked to the industry I'm in are the conditions in the tanneries and the chemicals they pump out into the rivers in Bangladesh and India.

Hazaribagh is a slum in Dhaka where the tanneries are situated.  The Buriganga River in Dhaka is so heavily polluted. The film quoted the smell was horrendous, 1/3 of the pollution is sewage and 2/3 chemicals from the tanneries. No life can be sustained in the river.  There was an image on a man rowing a boat in the river and the ‘water’ was so heavy with all the pollution, it kind of just rolled over.

Coupled with the chemicals being pumped out of the tanneries are the conditions for the workers inside. They're touching the chemicals that tan the leather directly and definitely don't have the appropriate clothing to work in there. When they have a break to eat they haven't washed hands properly and will handle food with contaminated hands.

They featured Kanpur in India too as that is a centre for tanneries there and some health cases presented were gastric problems, ulcers and chest pain symptoms.

A tannery owner was interviewed and denied they were responsible instead saying it was the homes near the tannery that were polluting the river.

I googled both Bangladesh and India’s tannery districts today and have read some articles which highlight the problem further which I’ve pasted below.  These are well worth reading. 

https://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/bangladesh-toxic-tanneries

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2012/dec/13/bangladesh-toxic-tanneries-intolerable-human-price

https://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/india-toxic-tanneries

The whole sustainability subject is huge and covers so many different aspects. I don't enough to debate it a lot but it's something I want to know more about. Through more events like this it certainly makes me question and think about more how I'm buying. It's so complex though. What came up in the panel discussion afterwards is Bangladesh is a very poor country with factories and tanneries employing a lot of people. If they didn't work there how would they provide for their families but that definitely doesn't make this right.  

You could go back and forth with different discussions points on this.  Hopefully the more that these problems are continued to be highlighted the more people start to question where their clothes/accessories might come from.  Not one person can change an industry but the more people who question, highlight and share maybe change can happen eventually happen in these countries.