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DHAKA – Ready-made garment (RMG) factories in Bangladesh have huge potential to harvest rainwater for use in the production of clothing – but they will need significant investment to do so. A new study by WaterAid and the RAiN Forum suggests some RMG factories are already meeting up to 60 per cent of their production requirements using harvested rainwater, but significant investment costs – several million US dollars in some cases – prevent smaller factories from following suit.

In textile production, wet processing, including washing, dyeing, and finishing, all pose an environmental concern because of their dependency on groundwater. This has led to a falling water table in Bangladesh, which is hugely dependent on RMG exports.

Hasin Jahan, country director of WaterAid, said the water level in and around Dhaka City, Bangladesh’s main garment production hub, is falling by 1.5 to 3 per cent annually because of the overuse of groundwater in the RMG sector.

The report by WaterAid and the RAiN Forum said that on average it is possible to collect about 15 million litres of water from a garment factory roof of 9000 square feet.

For the report, they surveyed 65 textile and garment manufacturers and found that 12 units have rainwater catchment areas of 2,000 square metres while the remaining 53 factories have catchment areas ranging from 2,000 to 8,000 square metres.

The annual demand for non-drinkable water in 17 of these factories was 10,000 cubic metres, while it ranged from between 10,000 and 50,000 cubic metres in the remaining 48 units.

As such, the report suggests 34 of the factories have the potential to harvest 10,000 cubic metres of rainfall while the other 31 could harvest anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 cubic metres each year.

Bangladesh currently has 157 Leadership in Environmental and Energy in Design (LEED) certified garment units across the country.

These green garment factories have been saving an annual average of 40 per cent on their power and water costs by introducing rainwater harvesting, the report suggests.

“Harvested rainwater even meets 100 per cent of the demand for non-drinkable water in some garment factories that do not have dyeing and washing units,” said Md Ashraful Alum, member secretary of the RAiN Forum.

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) president Faruque Hassan said he would include the sustainable water management cell in the innovation centre at the newly constructed BGMEA building in Uttara this year as a part of its efforts to improve sustainability in the RMG sector.

Tanzida Islam, programme manager for environment at H&M, said 50 per cent of the company’s local apparel sourcing factories are expected to build rainwater harvesting infrastructures by the end of 2022.

As of last year, 45 per cent of H&M’s 105 sourcing factories in the country had already built rainwater harvesting infrastructures, saving 0.2 million cubic metres of rainwater.

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