Gap, Others, Pollute Indonesian River With Unwanted Tie-Dye Treatment

Several fashion industry giants such as Gap, Adidas, and Brook Brothers have been tied to factories in Indonesia giving a local river a multi-color hue.

Greenpeace International released a report this week revealing the dumping of industrial wastewater containing a mixture of toxic and hazardous chemicals into the Citarum River in West Java. The company behind this pollution is PT Gistex Group, which has ties to the Gap and other prominent brands.

“Gap’s latest advertising campaign declares that we should ‘Be Bright,’ but by collaborating with toxic suppliers Gap’s clothes are turning the Citarum into a multicoloured mess,” Ashov Birry, a campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said in a statement. “Gap and other big brands need to work with their suppliers in Indonesia and elsewhere to urgently eliminate all uses of hazardous chemicals from their supply chains and products before it is too late.”

The Citarum River plays a significant role in the life of the people of West Java. Not only is it used for agriculture and electricity, it carries cultural significance as well.

“Tisna Sanjaya, a famous Indonesian artist and social and environmental activist, speaks of Citarum River as ‘The Cradle of Our Nation’s Cultures’,” Birry wrote in a Greenpeace blog post. “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.”

Many of the substances being released into the river, including nonylphenol and tributyl phosphate, are toxic and may cause damage to the body when ingested.

“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,” Birry writes.

Gap also owns such brands as the Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piperlime, and Athleta. For those who do not wish to contribute to the pollution in the Indonesian river and others like it around the world, shopping at the mall can be a notoriously difficult affair.

[Image by Andri Tambunan for Greenpeace]