The World Bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC) has hailed as a success an initiative to use global expertise to clean up Bangladesh's notoriously dirty wet textile processing units.

The IFC claims it has helped install new cleaner and efficient production equipment in 12 factories so far, reducing water consumption by annual 75m litres and saving US$1m in operating costs.

It acted after a series of pollution incidents in Bangladesh involving its textile sector - a serious problem for a country where 31m people lack clean water.

It has worked with six major international buyers - Hennes & Mauritz (H&M), KappAhl, Lindex, Mothercare, Levi's, and WE Fashion - and Dutch international development group Solidaridad to deliver technological improvements. The UK Department for International Development and the Norwegian Agency for Development Co-operation have also participated.

An IFC note said: "Preliminary results show that the implementation of clean and resource-efficient production methods yielded significant savings."

It claimed if the industry's 1,700 textile wet-processing units adopt cleaner production measures, they could save up to US$70m and 10.5bn litres of water annually.

The World Bank arm's Monika Weber-Fahr added: "The success of this project will allow the Bangladesh textile sector to gain a competitive edge by showcasing...a greener supply chain."