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A hugely water intensive crop, one shirt can use up to 2, litres. The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world, causing human misery, enormous cost of life and gigantic environmental devastation.


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The harvest of Uzbek cotton is taking place right now — it started on the 5 September and is expected to last until the end of October. The harvest itself is also a horror story, on top of the environmental devastation, this is cotton picked using forced labour.

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Every year hundreds of thousands of people are systematically sent to work in the fields by the government. Under pressure from campaigners, in , Uzbek authorities banned the use of child labour in the cotton harvest, but it is a ban that is routinely flouted. In there were 11 deaths during the harvest pdf , including a six year old child, Amirbek Rakhmatov, who accompanied his mother to the fields and suffocated after falling asleep on a cotton truck. Campaigners have also managed to get fashion brands to sign a pledge to never knowingly use Uzbek cotton.

Close up — Water in the city

Anti-Slavery International have worked on this fashion campaign but acknowledge that despite successes there is still a long way to go. One major problem that Sobik points out is that much of the Uzbek cotton crop now ends up in Bangladesh and China - key suppliers for European brands.

River Talk: Beate Werner, Head of Water Group European Environment Agency

The two issues — of environmental destruction and forced labour — are intrinsically linked. Hurdles that could be lessened if fashion conglomerates demanded higher standards. This could be done by brands implementing legally binding contracts with suppliers that ensure suppliers and sub-suppliers do not ever purchase Uzbek cotton.

River Basin Management in the Past and at Present and its Impact on Extreme Hydrological Events

The contracts could be verified using traceability systems and social audits, a process that requires time and money but which is fully achievable. Hamnett advises another key step - phasing out conventional cotton and investing instead in its far more sustainable counterpart: organic cotton. The environmental impact of losing the Aral Sea is not yet known, what we do know is that the cotton that destroyed it, is cotton picked by forced labour and destined for European shops.


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This is the reality of a subcontracted deregulated industry not bound by any global environmental or minimum wage legislation. There was nothing accidental about what is happening in Central Asia, a catastrophe that has provided irrefutable evidence of the damage being done to our planet by the fashion industry.

Environmentally devastated areas in river basins in Eastern Europe Book 1 edition published in in English and held by 1 WorldCat member library worldwide. Audience Level. Related Identities. Associated Subjects.

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