Greenpeace has called the Pearl one of the worst polluted waterways in the World.
As the global center for manufacturing, China’s production of cheap and fashionable apparel products has clothed the world. The city, Xintang, known as the ‘blue jeans capital of the world,’ produces approximately 260 million pairs of jeans per year, roughly equivalent to 40 percent of the jeans sold in the US annually.
The manufacture of jeans illustrates some of the most visible and gross pollution caused by China’s textile and clothing industry. Factories are located along the river that flows into the Pearl River Delta. The river was once pristine, but has since become a black ditch dividing the village of Xizhou from the industrial zone. The Xizhou villagers say that when the factory discharges are severe, the river water is not merely polluted, but toxic. The smell is putrid and unbearable and any skin contact results in itching and even septic rashes. Though villagers once fished in the river and drank its water, they now dare to do neither of these things, and must pay for tap water.
The RiverBlue team traveled to Xintang to witness the region’s industrialization along the Pearl River.
We spoke with Ma Jun and representatives from Greenpeace who have carried out sampling to find that the chemicals in the river include persistent and bioaccumulative hormone disruptors that pose long-term threats to the environment and to human health. The Pearl River basin also serves as a source of drinking water for the region’s 47 million inhabitants, including the populations of Guangzhou and Hong Kong and it’s health can’t be taken for granted.
The water quality has deteriorated sharply since the region’s remarkable economic growth began in the late 1970s, with more than 60% of its waterways now designated as ‘polluted’.
In 2011 Greenpeace launched it’s Detox Campaign to expose the direct links between global clothing brands, their suppliers and toxic water pollution around the world. Fieldwork and investigations in manufacturing countries, along with the testing of branded garments for traces of hazardous chemicals, resulted in the release of groundbreaking reports that exposed the toxic truth behind our clothes. Greenpeace has had a lot of positive response from some of the world’s most recognized brand labels, including Levi’s, Nike, Adidas, Puma, H&M, Zara, Victoria’s Secret, among others.