Pakistan Textile Council

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in the Textile Industry


Understanding the Environmental Footprint of the Textile Industry

The textile industry stands as a significant contributor to global economic growth, providing not only employment opportunities but also garments and fabrics on a worldwide scale. However, its operations consume an excessive number of raw materials—according to the European Environment Agency (EEA), 175 million tons of raw materials were used to produce clothing, footwear, and household textiles in 2020. The industry’s rapid expansion has led to a host of environmental challenges, including water and air pollution, chemical utilization, global warming, energy consumption, waste generation, the rise of fast fashion, and increased consumer waste.

The Role of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

Given the mounting concerns over the environmental implications of textile production, the concept of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has emerged. The origins of EIA trace back to the United States’ proposal of The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, which aimed to identify and foresee the detrimental effects of human activities on the natural environment. Later enacted on January 1, 1971, this act became a law. EIA serves as a tool to evaluate the significant consequences of planned projects and develop strategies to mitigate or prevent their adverse effects on both the environment and individuals involved in the project’s development. This article delves into the procedures of EIA and strategies to mitigate the impacts of the textile industry.

Regulatory Frameworks and Guidelines Governing EIA in the Textile Industry

In Pakistan, EIA has become a mandatory legal requirement. This shift began with the promulgation of the Pakistan Environmental Protection Ordinance (PEPO) of 1983 (repealed in 1997), followed by the stipulation that EIA must be conducted for all new projects starting in July 1994. These regulatory frameworks outline the scope, procedures, and prerequisites for conducting an EIA. These include data collection, methodologies for assessing impacts, and mechanisms for engaging the public in the process.

Key Procedures of EIA in the Textile Industry

The EIA process includes various steps that can be tailored to specific project requirements. Some essential steps are elucidated here:

1. Screening:

This preliminary step determines whether the proposed project necessitates the application of EIA. It’s crucial to ascertain whether the project could have any negative impact on the environment before proceeding with a comprehensive EIA.

2. Scoping:

Scoping plays a pivotal role in identifying potential issues that might arise during the project and discerning those of higher significance that warrant consideration during the EIA process. By setting boundaries and project parameters, scoping guides the inclusion and exclusion of elements in the EIA.

3.Impact Assessment and Mitigation:

At the heart of the EIA process lies impact assessment and mitigation. This phase evaluates the extent to which the proposed project affects environmental and socioeconomic conditions. It subsequently pinpoints measures to mitigate or prevent adverse effects on the environment, individuals, and wildlife, while also striving to create positive contributions.

Reducing the Environmental Impact of the Textile Industry

1. Select Eco-Friendly Materials:

The textile industry’s heavy reliance on water contributes to heavily polluted wastewater. Conventional materials like polyester and cotton demand substantial water for cultivation and processing. Eco-friendly alternatives like bamboo and organic cotton require significantly less water. Addressing air pollution concerns involves reducing fossil fuel usage and employing natural dyes and materials that have minimal water demands. These choices not only mitigate environmental impact but also enhance garment comfort, durability, and hypoallergenic properties.

2. Embrace Circular Design Principles:

Circular design principles emphasize prolonging the life cycle and value of clothing and fabrics. By promoting designs that are reusable, recyclable, durable, and repairable, the industry can reduce resource consumption, processing pollution, and overall environmental impact.

3. Advocate for Ethical and Transparent Supply Chains:

Supporting ethical and transparent supply chains is a potent strategy to curtail textile waste and pollutants. These chains prioritize the rights of workers, communities, and animals engaged in textile production. Upholding fair wages, safe working conditions, and environmental standards enhances the overall sustainability of the industry.

4. Promote Clothing Recycling:

Incorporating recycled materials into garment production can decrease the environmental impact by approximately 11%. Opting for sustainable alternatives such as organic cotton, biodegradable polyester, and synthetic leather can further lower the industry’s environmental footprint by 18%.

5. Practice Garment Care and Repair:

Extending the lifespan and utility of clothing and fabrics is achievable through proper maintenance, including washing, storing, mending, and dyeing. These practices diminish the environmental impact of laundry, conserve water and energy, and reduce the need to discard or replace worn-out items.

In Conclusion

A thorough Environmental Impact Assessment empowers the textile industry to proactively address issues such as water pollution, chemical utilization, energy consumption, and waste generation. This methodical approach facilitates the adoption of sustainable practices and products, thereby minimizing environmental harm and safeguarding natural resources. EIA also ensures compliance with regulatory standards, bolsters transparency, and nurtures trust among stakeholders. Ultimately, integrating EIA into the textile sector represents a vital stride toward cultivating an environmentally accountable and socially conscious industry.