Indian fashion industry has to watch its role in pollution: British indigo expert

Kolkata, Jan 28 (IANS) British author Jenny Balfour-Paul, a world authority on indigo, says the Indian fashion and textile industry has to be really careful as the sector is a major cause for environmental pollution courtesy the use of synthetic dyes.

“The fashion and textile industry has to watch it really. Because they are huge polluters,” Balfour-Paul told IANS here.

Describing indigo as the “perfect green crop”, Paul suggests incorporation of natural dyes in textiles (including natural indigo and not the synthetic variant).

In addition, the researcher takes a different approach on fashion, advising on opting for timeless pieces of organic textiles and treasuring them instead of throwing them away.

“Natural indigo is a perfect green crop. In some places in Bangladesh, people grow indigo not so much for the dye but for the fertiliser.

“You can make denim in a complete organic way now. Fashion is changing all the time but we should treasure things, we shouldn’t throw things away so much,” said Balfour-Paul, a honorary research fellow in the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, Exeter University in Britain.

Her latest book “Deeper than Indigo: tracing Thomas Machell, forgotten explorer” narrates the detailed account of the Victorian explorer and indigo planter in the 19th century who spent most of his adult life in India.

Machell was a witness to many important historical events, including the First Opium War and the Indian Mutiny. Balfour-Paul’s book is based on Machell’s journals chronicling his voyages and experiences in India, Bangladesh, China, North Africa and the Arab world.

The author follows him to indigo plantations of rural Bengal and Bangladesh, to coffee estates in Kerala’s Malabar Hills, to unexplored regions of central India and to the city of Calcutta (now Kolkata). Machell also travelled up the Indus River to Kashmir and the North-West Frontier and undertook an intrepid sea voyage with Muslim merchants.

Talking to IANS at the just-concluded Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet here, Balfour-Paul stresses Machell’s relevance today lies in his approach towards different religions and their inter-connectedness.

The adventurer was born to a clergyman near York in 1824. He died in India in 1864, aged 39.

“Since I started the book in 2000, he has become more relevant. He travels with Arabs for nine months and dresses like them. He says, ‘Let’s be tolerant of each others religion and study them else there will be trouble in the future.’ He sees education is the key and starts a school in his plantation,” the author added.

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