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By Turbaashu Bhattacharya

India: Roserve Enviro recently undertook a visit to Bangladesh to create awareness about the concept of “Pay Per Use” in the industrial wastewater management field for all the Ready-Made Garment (RMG) industries operating there.

Bangladesh is a leader in the textile sector with the RMG industry next only to China in terms of export volumes. In the textile sector, dyeing and washing are water-intensive processes with waste-water treatment plants (ETPs) made mandatory for all factories and with our customized solutions for industries, we found a lot of scope for recycling across the sector.

Primarily, two types of water resources namely surface and groundwater make up the bulk of Bangladesh’s water sources. A total of 95% of the domestic and industrial water supplies and 70% of the irrigation supplies are drawn from groundwater. Despite the monsoon rainfall which replenishes the groundwater aquifer levels, the water layer is decreasing per year at a steady rate, and industries which used to source their water requirements from groundwater are being forced to bore deeper for their motorized tube wells.

RMG sector is one of the key contributors to water demand, 98% of which is sourced underground. The estimated water consumption in the textile sector is estimated to be 4,027 Million Liters per Day (MLD). The World Bank estimates the annual water demand to reach 6,788 MLD for the textile sector by 2030.

Garments and Textile Market Size
USD 30.61 billion worth of exports, employing an estimated 4.2 million workers.

Approximately 2,500-3,000 factories in the RMG and textile industry sector.

Growth Prospects
Medium, apparel sector registered 8.76% growth in 2017-18.

One of the notable incidents in the industry is the Rana Plaza industrial accident which started a wave of workplace safety compliance reforms. Currently, one prominent trend in the industry is setting up or converting factories into ‘green buildings’ and getting certified as LEED factories. While the factory workplace reformation was a reactive event, in response to the Rana Plaza tragedy; the green factory initiative is proactive for many players.

Currently, there are 72 LEED-certified factories in Bangladesh. This trend shows the transition of the apparel industry towards sustainable practices in a proactive manner. Therefore, opportunities for promoting environment-friendly technologies in water conservation will align with the industries outlook for sustainable and greener technologies. However, in the end, since factory management are price-sensitive in nature, the business case for promoting such technologies is mandatory.

Wastewater treatment in the fabric production phase at the textile factories is estimated to consume 50% of the overall water usage in this sector. In this phase, the most water-intensive part of the production process is the wet processing component in the fiber processing factories, accounting for almost 85% of the water consumed.

Bangladesh has approximately 2,000-2,500 factories in the garments industry. Of them, roughly 10% or 200-250 are top-tiers meaning they work directly with the global clients complying with safety standards and policies for work regulation. There are almost 500 to 700 wet processing units dedicated to the Washing, Dyeing, and Finishing (WDF) of textiles. Around 70% of WDF textile units are located around or in Dhaka, and the remaining units are in Mymensingh and Chittagong.

A study analyzing effluent data from 2005 to 2014, found that the major three textile oriented industrial areas – Savar, Narayangonj, Gazipur are severely affected by textile effluent. Since textile processing and dyeing are the most water-intensive process in RMG manufacturing, this segment is being targeted.

Textile industries consume high volumes of water per unit of fabric. In 2016, an estimated 217-million-meter cube (m3) of wastewater was produced for manufacturing 1.80 million metric tonnes of fabrics. In 2021, it is estimated that 349-million-meter cube (m3) of wastewater will be produced using conventional dyeing practices.

During our current visit, we undertook tours of a few RMG factories in Dhaka and Chittagong. We gave a presentation to the management team at these factories and visited their Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP) locations to study in detail about the entire layout, the process of treatment and the final quality of water at the outlet. In Dhaka, we visited the factory of a leading medium-sized player in the Dyeing segment in Gazipur and did a thorough study of their Physio Chemical ETP plant and suggested inputs for recycling which was well taken by the management.

During our Chittagong visit, one of the leading Denim players in Bangladesh was very enthused about our service-based model and we undertook a visit to their ETP operations as well as the washing process to understand how the water consumption could be reduced and recycle done so that the water could be reused back in the process. The second factory we visited was excited about the implementation of Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) solutions to showcase itself as a model factory for the RMG sector in Bangladesh. We had very fruitful discussions with them on our model and technology and we are hopeful that we’ll able to work out a very cost-effective ZLD solution for them.

Looking at the overall RMG sector in Bangladesh, we can safely conclude that the industries are open to the trial of new technologies subject to cost-effectiveness and a proper business case. We feel that this is the right moment for the industries to focus on our innovative Pay-Per-Use solution saving initial Capex investment while at the same time meeting their wastewater discharge norms as per regulations.

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