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Compliance with the Supreme Court order dated July 30, 2012 and recommendations of IMC on shipbreaking

Written By Krishna on Wednesday, September 19, 2012 | 6:28 AM

To

Shri D B Singh
Director
Ministry of Steel
Government of India
New Delhi

Subject-Compliance with the Supreme Court order dated July 30, 2012 and recommendations of IMC on shipbreaking

Sir,

This is with reference to our telephonic conversation on September 19, 2012 pertaining to ship breaking activity on Alang beach in the aftermath of the recent order of Hon'ble Supreme Court, the advisory/letter issued by the ministry and the letter received from the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests.

I wish to have a copy of the advisory and the letter. I am an environmental and occupational health researcher and convener of ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) and the applicant in the Supreme Court in the matter of hazardous wastes/shipbreaking (Writ Petition Civil 657 of 1995).

I want to draw your attention towards the news item ‘MoEF clarifies SC ruling, calms rattled Alang shipbreakers (Indian Express, Ahmedabad, Aug 22 2012). The news report implies that “ship-breaking rules framed under the Supreme Court’s orders in 2007 should be followed at Alang-Sosiya” instead of July 30, 2012 judgment of Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice J Chelameswar bench. This gives birth to the apprehension that some official either in Gujarat’s Environment Department or at the central environment ministry has been persuaded to grant undue favor to some ship breakers. It is an established law that the most recent decisions of the Supreme Court are binding on all authorities within the territory of India and last judgment take precedence over previous judgment. It appears that the same is being violated under some influence. This merits probe. The news report is attached.

I submit that even on Steel Ministry website July 30, 2012 judgment of the Hon’ble Court does not mention it as can be seen at http://steel.nic.in/shipbreaking/shipbreaking.htm

I submit that Hon’ble Court has ruled that “... in all future cases of a similar nature, the concerned authorities shall strictly comply with the norms laid down in the Basel Convention or any other subsequent provisions that may be adopted by the Central government in aid of a clean and pollution free maritime environment, before permitting entry of any vessel suspected to be carrying toxic and hazardous material into Indian territorial waters.” Taking cognizance of the same, Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Ship breaking, Union Steel Ministry may consider issuing a circular incorporating the Hon’ble Court’s order to ensure that the same is complied with in letter and spirit.

I submit that Union Ministry of Environment & Forests wrote to IMC on Ship breaking for which Steel Ministry is the nodal point in the matter of investigation of fake documents of end of life ships. It underlined the need for probe into the issue of fake port of registry of the dead ships that entered Indian waters. Shipping companies use corporate veils to avoid liabilities of their end of life ships. In an order dated November 9, 2009, Environment Ministry had asked Gujarat Maritime Board to probe allegations that the ship had been brought into India with a falsified flag and registry. The letter is enclosed. I wish to know as to whether the probe has been completed.

I submit that currently over 100 end of life ships are on Alang beach. It is apprehended that most are on fake documents.

I submit that it is quite disturbing that in an Office Memorandum No.29-3/2009-HSMD, Government of India, Ministry of Environment & Forests, (HSM Division) dated May 9, 2011 relating to implementation of Hon’ble Supreme Court directions in respect of ship breaking activities, it has been admitted that the issue regarding the submission of fake certificates by the ship owners/agents remains unresolved. If required I can share the copy of this Office Memorandum.

It has come to light from this Office Memorandum of May 2011 that Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF)’s Standing Monitoring Committee (SMC) on Shipbreaking has suggested that since Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) and Customs were not able to verify the authenticity/genuineness of ship’s registry/flag in the fast in respect of some ships referred to them, this task in respect of each ship may be referred to the Directorate General Shipping, Ministry of Shipping ought to undertake such verification henceforth. The GMB officials informed MoEF that “the suggestion of the committee is acceptable to them subject to such verification by DG Shipping is done within a period of 2 working days. If no information is received from the DG Shipping within 2 working days, it will be presumed that the certificate submitted is authentic and genuine.”

I submit that such presumption of genuineness of fabricated documents is unacceptable. The documents of these 100 dead ships currently on Alang Beach, Bhavnagar, Gujarat must be investigated.

I submit that SMC observed that “at present there is no single point access to the yards and therefore, hazardous waste is being illegally dumped at various places. It was suggested to have a single point access to the yards in order stop such illegal dumping activity.”

It has been confirmed come to light from the report of the site visit of the committee that they visited the existing Hazardous Waste Treatment, Storage & Disposal Facility (TSDF) site and it was observed that the existing cell is filled.

I submit that before it was filled up Gujarat Enviro Protection and Infrastructure Ltd (GEPIL), Alang Unit has been operating and maintaining Common Hazardous waste TSDF on behalf of GMB, since October’ 2005.The site was constructed and developed by GMB. GEPIL was awarded this TSDF for Operation and Maintenance through competitive Bidding Process in September’ 2005. Its total Notified Area is 7 hectares. The site is situated at Alang Ship breaking yard. It is designed to collect, transport, Receipt, Store, treat and dispose off wide range of hazardous waste. GEPIL (Alang Unit) is also associated with Sweeping, collection, transportation, treatment and disposal of Municipal wastes generated during the ship breaking activities. GEPIL (Unit Alang) has been providing its services to more than 80 industries of region. The facility receives wastes from Ship breaking and Ship recycling industrial sectors. In its myopia GMB has suggested that “they may raise the height of the embankment of the cell and compress the existing material to enhance its capacity within designed parameters. This work needs to be taken up on urgent basis to ensure that this facility is available to shipbreakers at the existing site at least for another one year.”

I submit that the EIA report dated March 2012 for Common Hazardous Waste Incineration at Alang, Bhavnagar, Gujarat prepared for Gujarat Maritime Board by SENES Consultants India Pvt. Ltd reveals that “New landfill cells shall be developed for Hazardous Waste and Municipal Waste with a total capacity of 1, 00,000 Cu. m.; within the already notified land area. The project will be made operational in a span of 12 months from the start date. During operational phase of hazardous waste management facility, waste shall be accepted from industries located in Alang and industries situated in other nearby areas…New landfill cells and an ETP is also getting developed within the notified area” Given the fact that Environmental Clearance for it is not being done and is claimed that it is not required, “as the same were already been considered when environmental impact assessment of the same was done and when the site was notified in year 2000”, it is a matter of grave concern that new hazardous waste landfills are being created without assessing short-term and long-term adverse environmental consequences.

I submit that creation such facilities for hazardous wastes that originated in developed countries cannot and should not be approved. The million dollar question is that even if this is done what happens after one year and the year thereafter. Will Bhavnagar become a Hazardous Waste landfill/TSDF capital for the ship owning companies and countries in order to appear vibrant to the developed world?

Given the emergency situation that has emerged for the GMB, the SMC informed to the stakeholders that without the TSDF facility the shipbreaking activities should not be allowed by the GPCB as per the Supreme Court directions. It is evident that the shipbreaking activity that is currently in operation is happening in the absence of TSDF, thus, in clear violation of the Hon’ble Court’s directions.

I submit that SMC has recommended that “ship breaking yard shall not commence breaking of the ship till such time proper decontamination certificate is issued by GPCB after thorough inspection.” This recommendation does not take cognizance of Hon'ble Court's order that reads, "(16) At the international level, India should participate in international meetings on ship-breaking at the level of the International Maritime Organisation and the Basel Convention's Technical Working Group with 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." One of the fourteen Terms of Reference on which the High Powered Committee was to give its report and recommendations "Decontamination of ships before they are exported to India for breaking.” The apex court's order of July 30, 2012 has also endorsed Basel Convention.

SMC has suggested that monitoring of asbestos in ambient air at shipbreaking yards on Alang beach “shall be commissioned by GMB for carrying out the same by a reputed institute like NIOH, as a one time study.” TWA has been demanding that asbestos cannot be handled safely or in a controlled manner. Therefore, International Labour Organisation’s resolution of June 2006 and World Health Organisation’s resolution of 2005 seek elimination of future use of asbestos. Indian workers in general and migrant workers of Alang should not be made to handle asbestos under any situation.

I submit that Gujarat Pollution Board (GPCB) should be asked make the study for sea water and sediment analysis public so that the extent of pollution at Alang beach can be comprehended.

It may be noted that Standing Monitoring Committee (SMC) on Shipbreaking comprises of (1) Dr. M. Subba Rao, Director, MoEF, (2) Shri B. R. Naidu, Scientist-D and Zonal Officer, CPCB, Vadodara (3) Shri B. D. Ghosh, Addl. Industrial Adviser, Ministry of Steel, (4) Capt. J. S. Uppal, Principal Officer, Mercantile Marine Department, DG Shipping, (5) Dr. S. R. Tripathi, Asstt. Director, NIOH, and (6) Dr. R. R. Tiwari, Scientist-C, NIOH. The SMC visited the Ship Breaking Yards on Alang beach on 24th January, 2011.

I submit that the funds collected by GMB and Steel Ministry’s Ferrous Scrap Committee (FSC) must be used for remediation and decontamination of Alang beach and for workers and villagers’ environmental and occupational health rights.

Besides the above, I wish to submit the non-implementation of the following recommendations of the Hon’ble Court constituted IMC and Technical Experts Committee (TEC):

1. Health care system for Alang workers was required. Registration of all migrant workers who work in the ship breaking activity, their photo identity cards, paid holiday, opening of bank accounts and payment through cheque and payment of Provident Fund was required as per the recommendations of the Supreme Court’s TEC on Hazardous Wastes relating to Ship-breaking but the same has not been done till date. (Para 8.2.2, 8.3 Page 48, 49, 50, TEC)

2. Trust Hospital: IMC was informed that the Trust has not yet passed any resolution to allow the ESIC to set up hospital in the building constructed by the GMB and also in regard to balance funds. It was also informed that ESIC officials visited the hospital building on 9th August, 2011 and submitted a report to ESIC, HQs, New Delhi…The representative of ESIC added that population of registered workers at Alang is not adequate for operating a 100 bedded hospital. Chairman, IMC observed that registration of workers is necessary for implementation of the ESI scheme and for taking over of Trust Hospital by the ESIC. It was decided that the State Government and GMB should take immediate steps to resolve these issues. The Ministry of Steel was supposed to write a letter to State Government of Gujarat for granting exemption from implementation of ESI scheme at Alang- Sosyia for the past period; but the State Government/GMB should issue necessary instructions to Shipbreaking Yards for getting their employees registered for ESI/EPF coverage w.e.f. 1.4.2012. It was also decided that the State Govt and GMB should facilitate takeover of Trust Hospital by ESIC immediately. ESIC may take decision on the condition of the hospital building and any capital expenditure required for repairs and renovation should be provided by the State Government/ESIC. Recurring Expenditure for running the hospital shall be met by the ESIC. The deadline has long passed but these recommendations have not been complied with. As per the minutes of the 14th meeting of the Inter Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Shipbreaking held in the Steel Room, Udyog Bhawan, Ministry of Steel, New Delhi on February 28, 2012, Ministry of Labour, Gujarat Maritime Board, State Govt and Steel Ministry was supposed to take action in this regard.

3. Radiological Study of Works: Representative of the DG, FASLI informed that radiological study on impact of glass wool on the workers could be undertaken only if a request is received from GMB as mentioned in the last meeting. The Chairman, IMC observed that the DG FASLI should undertake the study without a request from GMB as it is a labour welfare activity. It was assured by the representative of M/o Labour that DGFASLI will undertake the study at an early date. The Chairman, IMC directed that the study should also focus on disposal aspect of glass wool at shipbreaking yards. Guidelines in this regard may also be evolved and made operational by 30.6.2012. The action was required by GMB/DGFASLI/Ministry of Labour but the same has not been undertaken.

4. The Supreme Court-appointed technical committee of experts said every sixth worker handling asbestos in the ship-breaking industry has shown signs of asbestosis from chest X-rays. The 200-page report of Technical Experts Committee on Hazardous Wastes relating to Ship-breaking puts the figure of asbestosis affected workers in Alang at around 16% which could further lead to lung cancer. The workers who were identified as having been exposed to asbestos in the NIOH study have not been compensated so far. They must be compensated.

I submit that it has been claimed that Industrial Hygiene Services (IHS), a group company of Sure Safety anchors and manages asbestos containing materials (ACM) at Alang Ship Recycling Yard. The responsibility for ACM removal, handling, scrapping and packing job has been outsourced to HIS. As per a release dated May 2, 2012, IHS has claimed to have decontaminated over 500 ships in 21 months and saved workers from asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis resulting from occupational exposure.

I submit that the veracity of such claims can only be established if the names and details of all the workers who were saved are disclosed to ascertain whether or not they suffer from asbestos exposure in future given the fact that the incubation period for the asbestos related diseases.

I submit that it is estimated that about 2 to 2.5 million tones of steel produced through dismantling of ships. The possibility of the secondary steel being contaminated with hazardous and radioactive material cannot be ruled out.

I submit that the issue of radioactive steel that has repeatedly emerged and has been pointed out by Sri Lanka, US, Russia and countries from Europe merits serious consideration of the Ferrous Scrap Committee (FSC), Ministry of Steel that was set up under the Iron & Steel (Control) Order, 1956, on the 19th December 1979 and was reconstituted on 28th July, 1997 under the Chairmanship of the DCI&S.

I submit that FSC members including Director (Finance) of Ministry of Steel, President of the Shipbreakers’ Association and Vice-Chairman of the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) ought to apply their minds to the exposure to unsuspecting from such hazardous and radioactive scrap metals within the country.

Given the fact that FSC administers a fund created through imposition of a Cess upon import of old ships for breaking and aimed at increasing the overall availability of scrap in the country, the FSC ought to take steps to prevent exposure of workers from hazardous substances and to assist them in safe handling of metal scrap.

I wish to draw your attention towards the detection of consignment of stainless steel and aluminum products contaminated with an artificial radioactive element at the Colombo harbor in the cargo which was imported from India as per the report of September 16, 2012 published in the Official Government News Portal of Sri Lanka‎. (Source:http://www.news.lk/news/sri-lanka/3149-radioactive-contaminated-cargo-detected)

I submit that the report has extremely relevance for the Indian workers who are/were involved in processing and manufacturing these stainless steel and aluminum products whose distribution has been halted in Sri Lanka. The contaminated cargo is currently held at Sri Lanka Ports Authority and Sri Lanka Atomic Energy Authority (SLAEA) has stopped the release and distribution of the contaminated products. It has come to light that the cargo, imported from India contained about 125 units stainless steel and aluminum products contaminated with cobalt 60 – a radioactive element. The Sri Lanka Customs is all set to return the consignment to India and to inform the Atomic Energy Commission of India and the International Atomic Energy Agency concerning the products. When this consignment comes back, the government must ensure complete transparency about what is done with these consignments. It must reveal how the company and the regulators have been made accountable for exposing unsuspecting Indian workers who were betrayed by both the company and the government they trust.

I submit that it is not the first time that Indian products have been found to be contaminated with radioactive steel.

I submit that there is a logical compulsion for you to acknowledge this serious lapse and constitute a Independent Trans Disciplinary High Power Expert Committee to investigate metal scrap units, foundries and every yard of the ship-breaking industry in order to trace the workers and communities who have been exposed to radioactive radiation within India while handling these products throughout its life cycle from processing to manufacturing to packaging these radioactive contaminated steel and aluminum products.

I submit that if the finished products have radioactive hazards, one can visualize the fate of raw scrap and the workers who process the scrap. Only a bare minimum of these finished products are exported. The major portion of the recycled scrap is used in India.

While above mentioned concerns remain, ship owners from Europe, US, Japan etc have prevailed to mutilate and dilute the existing international and national laws by promoting International Convention for the Safe and Sound Recycling of Ships (called Hong Kong Convention) that was adopted in May 2009 by the International Maritime Organization is facing bitter opposition from the environmental and labor groups and shipbreakers of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. India should refrain from ratifying this regressive treaty.

It is a matter of concern that while Union Ministry of Steel is the focal point for the ship breaking issue when it comes to representing India at UN meetings, ministries such as Ministry of Shipping which disassociates itself from shouldering the onus of regulating the violations in ship breaking activity, it is they who misrepresent what is in the Indian interest at the international forum. In the affidavit filed in the Hon’ble Supreme Court by Shri Sugandh Shripad Gadkar, Deputy Director General (Technical), DG Shipping, Union Ministry of Shipping on July 16, 2012 stated that the Ministry of Shipping “does not come in picture”. In view of this, Union Ministry of Steel should represent at the UN meetings.

In conclusion, I urgently seek your pro-active intervention to ensure that all the recommendations of IMC are made mandatory and those found not complying with must be made accountable to set matters right.

Thanking You


Yours faithfully

Gopal Krishna
Convener
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
New Delhi
Mb: 9818089660
E-mail:krishna1715@gmail.com
Web: toxicswatch.blogspot.com

Cc

Shri Beni Prasad Verma, Union Minister of Steel
Shri Anand Sharma, Union Minister of Commerce & Industry
Shri G K Vasan, Union Minister of Shipping
Shri A K Antony, Union Defence Minister
Smt Jayanthi Natrajan, Union Minister of Environment & Forests
Shri Jyotiraditya Madhavrao Scindia, Union Minister of State, Ministry of Commerce & Industry
Chairman & Members, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science, Technology, Environment & Forests
Shri A K Seth, Cabinet Secretary, Government of India
Shri R K Singh, Secretary, Union Ministry of Home Affairs
Secretary, Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry
Secretary, Union Ministry of Shipping
Secretary, Union Ministry of Environment & Forests
Secretary, Union Ministry of Defence
Secretary, Union Ministry of Steel
Smt. Vijay Laxmi Joshi, Additional Secretary , Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry
Ms Meera Mehrishi, Additional Secretary, HSMD, Union Minister of Environment & Forests
Shri Madhusudan Prasad, Additional Secretary, Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry
Shri Rajeev Kher, Additional Secretary, Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry
Ms Anita Agnihotri, Additional Secretary, Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry
Shri Mukesh Bhatnagar, Additional DGFT, Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry
Dr. Satish B. Agnihotri Director General of Shipping & Ex. Officio Additional Secretary, Govt. of India
Chairman, Inter Ministerial Committee on Shipbreaking, Union Ministry of Steel
Shri S.S. Bajaj, Chairman, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, Mumbai
Ms Aditi Das Rout, Director, Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry
Dr. Saroj, Director, HSMD, Union Minister of Environment & Forests
Dr. Manoranjan Hota, Director, HSMD, Union Minister of Environment & Forests
Dr Claude Alvares, Member, Supreme Court Monitoring Committee on Hazardous Wastes
Dr D B Boralkar, Member, Supreme Court Monitoring Committee on Hazardous Wastes
Shri Sanjay Parikh, Lawyer, Supreme Court
Miss Sunita Naraian, Director General, Centre for Science and Environment
Member Secretary, Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB)
Chairman, GPCB
Chairman, Gujarat Maritime Board
Shri S K Sharma, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board
Shri L S Singh, Union Ministry of Steel
ACB, Gandhinagar, CBI
Office of Commissioner, Customs, Ahmedabad
Shri C A Joseph, Under Secretary, MF Desk, Union Ministry of Steel
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