Fashion brands including Gap & Brooks Brothers dumping toxic wastewater in Indonesia waterways

by Ahmad Ashov Birry

April 17, 2013

Fed by Mount Wayang, Lake Cisanti (1500m above sea level), is Lake Citarum's water source.

© Andri Tambunan / Greenpeace

Let me tell you a story of a polluted paradise.

We used to call it ‘Parahyangan’ or the place where the Gods and Goddesses resided. The river in Indonesia that passes through it stretches 270 km from the Wayang Mountain to the Java Sea, giving life along its course.

A critical water source

We call it the Citarum River. Ci and Tarum, “Ci” is water, and “Tarum” or indigo is a plant of the pea family that was widely cultivated over a century ago as a source of dark blue dye. It is also linked to the ‘Tarumanagara’ Kingdom, one of the country’s oldest Kingdoms, once victorious on the outskirts of the Citarum River. Today, millions of people depend on the river and surrounding area for agricultural and domestic use.

Tisna Sanjaya, a famous Indonesian artist and social and environmental activist, speaks of Citarum River as “The Cradle of Our Nation’s Cultures”

Today, the Citarum River has the reputation of being one of the dirtiest rivers in the world. It looks like a gigantic sewer. The water is tainted by toxic industrial waste, has a terrible odor and is filled with garbage.

The visible problem of garbage and untreated domestic wastewater in the Citarum is severe. But to make matters worse, local factories are pumping wastewater containing toxic and hormone-disrupting chemicals directly into the water supply. The wastewater is sometimes multi-coloured, sometimes invisible. The textile sector is a major source of this pollution, especially in the Upper Citarum where 68% of the factories produce textiles, and where the PT Gistex facility is located.

The wastewater discharged from this facility provides a clear example of the type of hazardous chemicals being discharged every day into the Citarum River — affecting the local ecosystem and the livelihoods of millions of people.

Polluting our paradise.

Thetesting resultsreveal a real cocktail of hazardous chemicals including nonylphenol (NP), antimony and tributylphosphate being pumped in the Citarum. Many of these chemicals are toxic, while some have hormone-disrupting and highly persistent properties. The investigations also revealed wastewater from one of the smaller outfalls to be extremely alkaline or caustic (pH 14) indicating that this wastewater had not received even the most basic treatment before discharge.

There is no question that this type of pollution affects the livelihoods of local communities, fishermen and farmers, and also the millions people that are in contact with this water in their daily life. Jakarta, the Capital of Indonesia, meets the needs of 80% of its drinking water supply from the Citarum.

A global problem

But this is not just a story of one river in one region of the world — it is connected to a much bigger nightmare.

Behind the scenes, major international brands are conducting business with suppliers such as PT Gistex, helping to sponsor toxic water pollution and murky business practices.

One of these brands is Gap – which has been linked totoxic water scandalsbefore, and whose clothing items tested positive for hazardous chemicals in aprevious investigation.

How many more scandals need to break before Gap will work with its suppliers in Indonesia and around the world to Detox its production processes and products, and help Detox our water?

Share this story with the world

Every time you like, share, and promote this story it increases the pressure on Gap to change its ways: to stop polluting rivers in the countries where its products are made, and to stop shipping hazardous chemicals all over the world in its clothes.

Major competitors includingH&M,Zara,LevisandUNIQLOhave all committed to Detox.

So what exactly is Gap waiting for?

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