Note: Amidst rampant violation of UN laws such as Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade and Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and in the middle of a probe on the dumping of dead US ship Platinum II (photographs attached), the visit by UN Special Rapporteur Okechukwu Ibeanu to Alang, Mumbai and New Delhi during 11- 21 January 2010 assumes significance.
Among other things the Special Rapporteur would examine and report on compliance of UN's Basel Convention's Technical Guidelines for the Environmentally Sound Management of the Full and Partial Dismantling of Ships was adopted in 2002 by decision VI/24 of the sixth meeting of the Conference of the Parties. India is a party to it. The guidelines (attached 94 page guideline is also available as 100 page in Hindi) provide information and recommendations on procedures, processes and practices that must be implemented to achieve Environmentally Sound Management at ship dismantling facilities. Ships are considered hazardous wastes under the Basel Convention. Since its inception in 1982, ship breaking yard at Alang beach has dismantled 5,000 dead ships till January 2010.
The illegal shipment of hazardous waste "from industrialised countries is being shipped to less developed countries under the listed intention of recycling and reclamation," is a serious problem notes INTERPOL. Green Customs Initiative (GCI) comprise the secretariats of the relevant multilateral environmental agreements (Basel, Cartagena, CITES, Montreal, Rotterdam Stockholm), Interpol, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, UNEP, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Customs Organization.
According to GCI, national and international crime syndicates earn 20-30 billion US dollars annually from hazardous wastes dumping, smuggling proscribed hazardous materials, and exploiting and trafficking protected natural resources. Illegal international trade in “environmentally-sensitive” commodities such as ozone depleting substances (ODS), toxic chemicals, hazardous wastes, endangered species and living modified organisms exposes the glaring loopholes in national and international laws. Clearly, environmental crime and escaping of decontamination cost by global shipping companies in collaboration with international recycling industry is a significant and increasingly lucrative business.
ToxicsWatch Alliance/Indian Platform on Shipbreaking
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8 January 2010
Toxic waste/E-waste: UN human rights expert to visit India
GENEVA – UN Special Rapporteur Okechukwu Ibeanu will visit India from 11 to 21 January 2010 to examine and report on existing problems linked to the unsound management and disposal of hazardous products and wastes, including electronic waste (e-waste), and their adverse effects on human rights. Mr. Ibeanu will visit the country at the invitation of the Government.
“I intend to focus on the adverse effects that shipbreaking activities may have on the enjoyment of human rights of the countless individuals who work in the shipbreaking yards or live in their close proximity,” said the Special Rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Council on the adverse effects of the movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights.
“Shipbreaking is an important industry for India, since it represents an important source of raw material supply and provides jobs to thousands of persons. Nevertheless, I continue to be concerned at the reportedly poor working practices and environmental conditions prevailing in most shipbreaking yards in South Asia,” the UN expert added.
The latest annual report of the Special Rapporteur to the Human Rights Council, submitted in September 2009, focuses on the adverse impact of the shipbreaking industry on the enjoyment of human rights*.
Mr. Ibeanu will also examine the risks posed by the unsound management and disposal of e-waste to the human rights of individuals and communities that depend on the recycling of materials contained in obsolete electronic products for their subsistence.
“E-waste is one of the most hazardous waste streams worldwide,” stressed the UN expert. “Electronics contain over 50 hazardous chemicals or heavy metals that can cause serious health and environmental risks if not disposed in an environmentally safe manner.”
The Special Rapporteur will hold meetings with Government officials, local authorities, relevant UN agencies, civil society organisations, trade unions and the private sector. Apart from the capital, Delhi, Mr. Ibeanu will visit Alang and Mumbai to assess the dangers that the shipbreaking industry and e-waste landfills pose to local communities and the environment.
Based on the information collected during the visit, the Rapporteur will prepare a report and make recommendations on how to protect the human rights against the threats posed by the unsound management and disposal of toxic and dangerous products and wastes. His report will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in 2010.
(*) See the report on shipbreaking (A/HRC/12/26): http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/12session/reports.htm
Okechukwu Ibeanu, Professor of Political Science at the University of Nigeria, was appointed Special Rapporteur in 2004 by the Human Rights Council. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity.
Learn more about the mandate and activities of the Special Rapporteur: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/environment/waste/index.htm
OHCHR Country Page – India: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/INIndex.aspx
For more information and media requests, please contact Ms. Arundhati Das, Assistant Country Director (Operations), UNDP (Tel: +91-11- 4653-2304; email: Arundhati.Das@undp.org).
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