The scene behind India's cotton production

Posted on May 8, 2019 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

India is the world's largest producer of cotton (it surpassed China recently), while Gujarat is the largest cotton producing state in India with a production of 125 Lakh Bales. Cotton is considered not only the most important fibre crop in India but the entire world.

Cotton is the most popular cellulose fibre in the textiles and fashion industry, yet it uses more than half the chemical pesticides used in the entire agricultural production in India. In fact, cotton production is very unsustainable and poses serious challenges to the environment through the excessive use of inputs like water, fertilizers and pesticides.
Although most of us consider cotton as a preferable fibre to other synthetic fibres, few of us actually know much about the process of cotton production. Our visit to a cotton production factory in Kutch was an eye-opening experience, and it made me think hard about my consumption habit and how it has to change in the future.

 

cottoncotton

cotton

cotton

 

The cotton plant is a shrub native to tropical and subtropical regions around the world, including the Americas, Africa, Egypt and India. The essential requirement for growing cotton crop is high temperature varying between 21°C and 30°C.

Cotton is a kharif crop which requires 6 to 8 months to mature. Traditionally, cotton production takes about 10,000 litres of water to produce one kilogramme of cotton fabric. And since India’s cotton is grown in drier regions, government subsidises the costs of farmers’ electric pumps, placing no limits on the volumes of groundwater extracted at little or no cost. This has created a widespread pattern of unsustainable water use and strained electrical grids.

So what happens after the cotton has been picked? Raw cotton is then brought to the ginning mills or factories to be cleaned and processed, and we visited one of them in Kutch. From afar, the raw cotton looked like mountains of snow – I have never seen so much cotton before, and it looked incredibly fluffy!

cotton factory

cotton factory

cotton factory  cotton factory

cotton factory

 

However, when we entered the factory, it was another story... the dark and polluted environment was shocking. We could barely breathe properly inside, and I had to take out and wear my 'emergency' face mask immeditately. The factory was filled with cotton dust – a mixture of many substances including ground up plant matter, fibre, bacteria, fungi, soil, pesticides, non cotton plant matter and other contaminants. Yet in this appalling condition, none of the young workers there were wearing face masks, which made us question our guide about the ethics of the factory.

 

cotton factory

cotton factory

 

The guide told us that the factory boss does provide face masks for the workers, though they refuse to wear them. He claimed that even social workers have tried to persuade them but failed. I found it a bit hard to understand, and said that the government needs to impose stricter safety regulations and fines in order to protect the workers' health and safety. Even though we didn't spend a long time inside the factory, we were already finding the air inhalable and very toxic; it was inconceivable to think that the workers have to work in this hazardous environment all day long. I am sure that the young workers here would develop respiratory-related illnesses from this. Yet this factory is only one of many in the region/ country; the overall situation is probably more horrific and depressing.

 

As we left the factory, I felt quite upset and helpless. The tour has made me reconsider my consumption habit and it reminded me of the importance of supporting eco-conscious fashion and textiles. Although I can't help the situations of the workers, I hope that I can spread the message and let consumers understand the truth about the cheap cotton t-shirts and other garments that are costing lives of so many around the world.

This post was posted in Fashion, Travel, Eco living & sustainability, Social issues, Textiles, India, Pollution & environment, sustainability, Kutch and was tagged with fashion, textiles, India, sustainability, Kutch, Indian textiles, cotton

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