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Written By Krishna on Thursday, September 20, 2012 | 6:42 AM
Scrap yards in South Asia "Passes the dead are burned"
The death toll in the South Asian shipbreaking workers is higher than in any other industry says the Indian researcher and activist Gopal Krishna.
Gopal Krishna is founder of the Indian environmental organization Toxic Watch Alliance. He has been working since 2000 with the theme Shipbreaking and has repeatedly visited the yards in Alang, most recently in February 2012. His research focuses on environmental and occupational health.
A ship's body near Mumbai Picture:. Reuters
taz: Mr. Krishna, you have been complaining for a long time, describe scrapping conditions under which vessels in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh are dismantled. Why?
Gopal Krishna: There prevails "slave-like conditions" - this is how the UN Special representative termed it, with whom I have visited the makeshift houses and shipyards at Alang. This is not an industry in the sense but are ad hoc industrial activities, when a ship comes.
Who works there?
People fleeing extreme poverty in northern and eastern India land up here to work. I know of workers who work there. In the last month, four workers were killed in accidents, which is the normal death rate. Higher than in mining, which is considered the most dangerous industry.
There is no official statistics are not there?
Statistics? There is not even a local hospital! When workers die, their identity proofs are burned, so that the company would not have to pay any damages. The families of the victims are wholly destitute, who have nothing. I just went to an environmental conference in Odisha. This is the state that contains the "widow villages", ie villages where life almost in every house has widows of migrant workers of Alang.
Do you know how many are dying from diseases that were caused by the work?
We have no certain figures. The Indian authorities claim that only 16 percent of workers are exposed to asbestos. The scientist, who is said to have determined this revealed later that was the ratio would be 60 to 65 percent.
End of July, the Supreme Court of India has ruled that ships containing hazardous materials entering no longer allowed. Does this mean the end of the Shipbreaking in India - and a shift to other countries?
No.There has been a similar decision in Bangladesh.President of the Association Shipbreaking in India has also demanded that the ships be allowed to enter only after the contaminated parts were removed. For the simple reason that they will save the cost of decontamination. The landfill in Alang is already full.
But then many ships would be towed because too many items would be removed, they need to operate.
That happens now even that is not the problem. It just can not be that those who cause the garbage disposal is not himself, but even earn money.
You mean the Europeans, where 40 percent of the world fleet are?
Yes, that's a double standard. In Europe it is prohibited to use asbestos, but it is dumped in South Asia. I call it environmental racism.
The European Commission has this year made a suggestion on how can this be changed. And there is the commitment of the International Maritime Organisation, the Hong Kong Convention, which is not yet in force.
That is not good. Just as these two sets of rules are written now, they are weaker than the Basel Convention on the basis of the Northern Vitality is being held. The need is to improve enforcement of the European waste shipment regulation in EU countries. Instead EU is acting subservient to the economic interests of the investors and the shipping industry.