STOP ILLEGAL EXPORT OF TOXIC SHIPS ON FAKE DOCUMENTS
21 October 2010, New Delhi - Taking cognisance of ongoing deaths on Alang beach since January 2010, a letter has been sent to Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister of Environment & Forests to comply with Supreme Court's order that gives "a clear mandate for the decontamination of ships of their hazardous sub-stances such as asbestos, waste oil, gas and PCBs, prior to export to India for breaking."
A similar letter has been sent to Dr Dalip Singh, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Steel who is the Focal Point for shipbreaking matters. (attached) The subject matter of ship breaking at present remains with the Ministry of Steel as per the list of subjects allocated to the Ministry of Steel, under the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961. Notably, one of the fourteen Terms of Reference on which the Supreme Court's High Powered Committee on Hazardous Wastes was to give its report and recommendations was "Decontamination of ships before they are exported to India for breaking.”
So far 18 workers have died while at work in 2010. Most of the workers are poor migrants from poor areas of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Chattisgarh and Jharkhand and work for meagre wages in a hazardous and toxic working environment. Approximately 50 workers per year are killed on the Alang beach. Sri Ganesh B Swamy, 27 years old worker from Orissa died in the Plot no. 114 of Rajendra Shipbreakers on 19th October. Earlier, Janardhan Choudhary, a 28 year old ship breaking worker from Uttar Pradesh, working in M/s Bansal Infra Co. Ltd. at yard no.154 Alang Shipbreaking yard died as a result of a fatal accident at work on October 12, 2010.
Most toxic ships are being diverted to Alang with fake documents to Alang, following an order of Bangladesh Supreme Court's on 22nd August 2010 on pre-cleaning of dead ships whereby the demand for the stay on the order of a Bangladesh High Court Division dated 11 May, 2010 requiring pre-cleaning/decontamination of vessels imported into Bangladesh for breaking purposes. The earlier orders and the order of 11 May, 2010 in specific required that all vessels to be imported for breaking must be decontaminated at source and outside the territory of Bangladesh. After the Bangladesh Court’s order the Import Policy Order has been amended to ensure that the pre-cleaning certificates are produced by the authorized agents of the exporting state. This amendment was changed on request from the Bangladesh Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) that purported to allow ships to enter Bangladesh with in-built, poisonous and cancerous substances for the safe disposal of which Bangladesh does not have minimum facilities. Bangladesh Judges said that life cannot be compared in proportion with anything else.
Environmental and labour groups have asked Environment Ministry and Steel Ministry that they too should follow the Indian Supreme Court's order and save lives of workers.
The vast majority of hazardous ships end up in primitive, dangerous and environmentally damaging operations in India, with most oil and gas tankers going to the shipbreaking yards of Alang beach, Bhavnagar, Gujarat due to the lax regulations there for controlling explosions from oily and gas residues. At present such import of ships is permitted under Open General License vide tariff item 89.08. Department of Revenue of the Ministry of Finance in consultation with World Customs Organization and not under the Import and Export Policy of the Government of India.
The ships that are coming to Indian waters contain high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), asbestos and other hazardous wastes and radioactive materials within their construction. Thus, under the rules of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, to which India is Party, these ships are defined as hazardous waste and must follow strict rules governing their trade in international commerce.
India must ratify Basel Ban Amendment which only permits the export of hazardous wastes to OECD countries, EU countries and Liechtenstein. Ever since the first inception of the Basel Convention, a majority of countries of the world sought a full ban on the worst forms of the
India cannot legally receive these vessels as waste for any reason unless they are first decontaminated of all toxic materials. India should uphold the principles of the Basel Convention and block the illegal export of these toxic vessels.
Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Mb: 9818089660, imowatch.blogspot.com, www.toxicswatch.com