The textile, apparel and fashion industry is one of the most vibrant and dynamic industries, knowing barely any regression as there are fast-changing trends and great demand for diverse products. But the industry thrives at the expense of the environment; textile industry is a large consumer of scarce natural resources and thus puts high pressure on the environment. With climate change, ever-increasing water shortages, surging raw materials prices, and depleting resources, encouraging sustainable practices in the textile industry is no more just a cultural trend that is good for business. The International Textile and Apparel Sustainability Conference (ITASC) was held from 16 to 21 July 2012 at the University of Mauritius.
The Opening Ceremony took place in the presence of Dr the Hon. Rajeshwar Jeetah, Minister of Tertiary Education, Science, Research and Technology and the Hon. Sayyad Abd-Al Cader Sayed-Hossen, Minister of Industry, Commerce and Consumer Protection. In his address, Dr the Hon. Rajeshwar Jeetah briefly recapitulated on the development of the Textile Industry, how it had flourished from the 70s and had contributed to the country’s economic progress. Back in the 60s, Mauritius was referred to as a basket case, having no future without natural resources. “But one parameter brought about change” said the Minister. It was with appropriate policy measures and visionary persons such as Professor Sir Edouard Lim Fat, who put forward the idea of setting up the Export Processing Zone that subsequently the Textile Industry was shaped into one of the pillars of Mauritian economy.
The country no longer benefits from preferential trade agreements and within an unpredictable global economy, Prof Jugessur, Pro-Chancellor of the University, stressed that: “we should depend on our own initiative to build our future. Let us not blindly follow what is happening outside”. It is now imperative to integrate sustainability if the industry wants to grow, innovate and create more jobs.
“In the name of quick progress, this sector has inflicted considerable damages on the environment,” said Assoc Prof Satyadev Rosunee, Head of the Department of Textile Technologies. Each stage of the production cycle, from growth or manufacture of fibres until the disposal of worn clothes, has its own specific impact on the environment. “We are facing an unprecedented set of challenges” said Prof Toolseeram Ramjeawon, Dean of Faculty of Engineering, “change in behaviour and social innovation are more important than technological innovation”.
Mr Kendall Tang, Director of RT knits, has some years back foreseen the need to engage his company on the path to sustainability. He thus shared some achievements of RT Knits namely how they oriented their building to benefit from sunlight and south east winds for drying of yards and the installation of a PV farm to harness solar energy among other similar projects initiated by RT Knits.
Methods to achieve environmental protection and sustainability in the industry were discussed during the conference. Local and overseas participants also presented their research outputs and latest knowledge in sustainability frameworks and tools, carbon neutral manufacturing, process technologies, technical textiles and other sustainability driven industrial innovations. The International Conference ended on Saturday night with a glamorous Fashion show, where UoM students showcased their sensational creations.