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Why Adani’s proposed ship breaking facility in Mundra, Gujarat's Kachchh should not be allowed

Written By Gopal Krishna on Friday, July 19, 2013 | 7:57 AM

                                                                                                                 ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)

To

Chairman
Inter Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Ship breaking
Union Ministry of Steel
Government of India
New Delhi

Date: July 19, 2013

Subject- Why Adani’s proposed ship breaking facility in Mundra, Gujarat's Kachchh should not be allowed

Sir,

This is with reference to the new ship breaking facility near Mundra West Port in Gujarat’s Kachchh district proposed by Gautam Adani led Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Limited (APSEZL), a part of the Adani Group of Companies should not be allowed. It was formerly known as Mundra Port and Special Economic Zone Limited.  Lessons learnt from the destruction of coastal environment at Alang beach create a compelling logic against yet another ship breaking beach in India.

I submit that in the post Environment Protection Act, 1986 era, there is a compelling logic for the conditional environmental clearance given to ship breaking operations in the coastal environment to be revoked. The first ship, called ‘Kota Tenjong’ was beached in Alang coast on February 13, 1983 when the adverse consequences of ship breaking was not known and there was no rule to protect coastal environment.

I wish to inform you that on July 30, 2013 there will be a public hearing for Adani’s proposed ship breaking facility. The public hearing will happen on the basis of the Draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) prepared in May 2013 by Mecon Limited, a Government of India Undertaking under the Union Ministry of Steel for their proposed ship breaking/recycling facility.

It may be recalled that Adani group had entered into an agreement with the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) for developing port and related activities at Mundra but its plan to enter the ship-building business by setting up a shipyard at Mundra appears to have been derailed. But in a new development it has proposed to re-enter the ship breaking business. Reportedly, Adani led group has been in the ship-breaking business in the USA till recently.

On behalf of ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) which has been involved in research and advocacy with regard to hazardous waste trade and has been an applicant in the Supreme Court, before Parliamentary Committees and relevant UN bodies, I wonder whether it is a coincidence that the sinking of Panama flagged MV Rak Carrier carrying on board 60,000 tonnes of coal for Adani Enterprise Limited reportedly drifted about 20 Miles off Mumbai on August 4, 2011 amidst an apprehension that it may have been staged to claim insurance money for its cargo of coal on board. The ship sank and caused oil spill. Was it an exercise meant to test waters and the regulatory strength of agencies involved?   This may be looked into. The matter with regard to MV Rak is before the National Green Tribunal.

I submit that as per its Draft EIA report, this new ship breaking/recycling facility has been envisaged adjacent the existing Mundra West Port, which is being expanded. The proposed ship recycling facility will handle ships to recover about 300,000 tons/year of various materials. Mundra West Port is located near Vandh Village in Mundra Taluk of Kachchh District in Gujarat state at an aerial distance of about 16 km south-west of Mundra town. The project is within the port limits notified as Special Economic Zone (SEZ). The proposed ship recycling facility measures 40.7432 hectare adjacent to the existing Mundra West Port.

It is germane to note that citing massive pollution as a reason, Sachana shipbreaking plots in Jamnagar district, Gujarat has been closed as per the order dated November 22, 2011 from the Office of Chief Forest Conservator, Gujarat government. The order is specifically meant “to cancel the plots allotted of Sachana ship braking yard. These plots are in the land of Forest / Marine Sanctuary”. Both the English translation and the order in Gujarati is attached.

The order reads: “Because of ship-breaking, harmful objects like arsenic, mercury, asbestos, oil, etc could harm marine life in the long time. This leads to complex problems for protecting and conserving the Marine National Park and Marine sanctuary.”

I submit that these observations are quite relevant for the proposed ship-breaking operations in the coastal environment of Mundra West Port given the fact that it is admitted that “At present most of the land is still submerged and only a minor portion is located in the inter-tidal zone.”

It is also revealed that “The land for the project is being created by dumping dredge spoils, generated due to expansion of Mundra West Port, up to 7.0 m above the chart datum” in the EIA report.

I submit that earlier, Kheti Vikas Sewa Trust and Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan (MASS) had sent complaints to Union Ministry of Environment & Forests regarding severe impact upon environmentsafety and integrity in the Mundra Port and SEZ Limited area committed by the Adani company in question. The Ministry constituted a Committee for inspection of M/s Adani Port and SEZ Ltd., Mundra, Gujarat. The Committee’s terms of reference is relevant in this case as well since by implication it underlines why Adani’s proposed ship breaking facility too should not come up in this ecologically fragile zone. The committee examined the allegations regarding bunding/diversion/blocking of creeks and reclamation etc., and distortion of original High Tide Line (HTL), the HTL submitted by the proponent and HTL of the approved Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP), compliance to the conditions of the Environmental Clearance (EC) and Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Clearance granted, the destruction of mangroves and leveling of sand dunes, the likely impacts on agriculture due to ingress of salinity resulting from creation of huge water body of sea water for Adani Power Plant at Mundra Taluka and the issues related to earthquake/tsunami/other natural calamities and soil liquefaction which may be impacted adversely. These concerns are manifestly pertinent for the proposed ship breaking facility.

It is clear that in a tactical and clever manner the company has taken environmental clearance for its various projects in the proposed region in installments by outwitting the regulatory agencies. This ploy is apparent when one reads in its claim in the Draft EIA report that “APSEZL had received Environmental and CRZ Clearance for Water Front Development Clearance from Ministry of Environment and Forests, Govt. of India, vide letter no.10-47 / 2008 – IA-III dated 12th January, 2009 and addendum dated 19th January, 2009.” Such truncated approach in grant of environmental clearances “has led to massive ecological changes with adverse impacts” the committee observed.  The proposed ship breaking facility is bound to aggravate the situation if cumulative and induced impact is taken into consideration.

I submit that the Technical EIA Guidance Manual for Ship breaking prepared for the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests myopically states, “The economics of the system was very straightforward - the owner receives money for his ship; the breaker receives enough money for his scrap to pay his expenses and make a profit.” This straightforward economics does not include the human and environmental cost of the hazardous ship breaking activity. Adani has been in the shipbreaking business in USA. US is a non-party to Basel Convention unlike India and has adopted a policy to transfer its obsolete ships to countries like India. Its attempts faced legal challenge in the case of SS Norway, SS Independence and Exxon Valdez.    

It admits that in Indian waters, “the ships are scrapped directly on the beaches or the vast inter-tidal mudflats exposed daily by about 10m tidal gauge. The beaching method of the Indian sub-continent relies heavily on low labour cost, since it involves very little mechanisation.” This beaching method which Adani’s company proposes in Mundra is fatally flawed. The four fatal flaws of the beaching method for ship breaking include: cranes cannot be placed alongside ship, lack of access by emergency vehicles and equipment, no possibility for containment and coastal zone, intertidal zone is environmentally sensitive and managing hazardous wastes in the intertidal zone can never be environmentally sound.

I submit that unmindful of these ecologically destructive practices in an exercise of sophistry, Dr Nikos Mikelis, Head of the Marine Pollution Prevention and Ship Recycling Section of International Maritime Organisation (IMO) argues that it was "neither logical nor ethical to stop sending ships to South Asia" at the behest of European and Japanese ship owners demonstrating complete disregard to the fragile coastal environment which has been heavily contaminated and it is crying for remediation. The way Alang beach has been colonized by the foreign ship owners in the same way Mundra too is sought to be handed over to shipping companies from the industrialized countries for dumping their end-of-life ships against the cardinal principal of hazardous waste management.

I submit that IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) contrary to its name and mandate is evidently colluding with those countries like Japan and USA which opposed Basel Convention that regulates and prohibits hazardous wastes trade from the outset. If the embargo on both national and international media which stops journalists and researchers from entering the Alang yards to ascertain for themselves as to whether or not there is any improvement in the “grave yards” of Alang it can reveal the disastrous impact of ship breaking activity which has been given to poison and pollute the beach beyond remediation for good.

I submit that permitting free trade in hazardous wastes like end-of-life ships is anti-national, anti-nature and anti-worker. It is well known that waste follows the path of least resistance. Indian regulatory agencies have either failed to see through the linguistic corruption being indulged in by foreign ship owning countries and companies to bulldoze hazardous wastes in the name of recycling or they are colluding with IMO which is undermining UN’s Basel Convention on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal hard earned by developing countries like India at the behest of the traditional enemies of this Convention.

I submit that the steel scrap generated from ship recycling contributes to around 1% of India’s domestic steel demand and is primarily a source of raw material for the re-rolling mills which convert this scrap to mainly produce rods and bars which find application in construction industry. Ship breaking activities contribute to total scrap steel supply and a significant number of re-rolling mills are increasingly dependent on them. This has also given birth to the issue of radioactive steel because of which the secondary steel products from India are globally under scrutiny. It may be noted that Steel Ministry is the focal point for the ship breaking activity although proposed Shipbreaking Code 2013 reveals that foreign ship owners seem to have prevailed on government to hand over its jurisdiction to Ministry of Shipping.   

I submit that keeping gnawing concerns the impact on the environmental health of the hazardous industrial activity in question makes ship breaking in India fall under a WIMBY (Welcome Into My Backyard) logic wherein waste is welcomed or application of Lawrence Summers' Principle wherein it was argued that it makes impeccable economic logic to transfer hazardous industries to developing countries.

In view of the above, I wish to persuade the IMC that by refusing permission for the proposed ship breaking facility, India can send give a categorical message to the foreign ship owning countries that they should keep their own waste and ‘recycle’ them ad infinitum instead of treating Indian waters as their landfills.       

Thanking You

Yours faithfully
Gopal Krishna
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
Mb: 09818089660, 08227816731
E-mail:gopalkrishna1715@gmail.com
Web: www.toxicswatch.org

Cc

Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister
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
Chairman & Members, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism & Culture
Cabinet Secretary, Government of India
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
Secretary, Union Ministry of Labour
Additional Secretary , Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry
Special Secretary, Union Minister of Environment & Forests
Chairman, Central Pollution Control Board
Additional Secretary, Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry 
Additional Secretary, Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry
Additional Secretary, Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry
Additional DGFT, Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry 
Director General of Shipping & Ex. Officio Additional Secretary, Govt. of India
Shri J P Shukla, Joint Secretary, Union Ministry of Shipping
Director General of Central Excise Intelligence (DGCEI), Union Ministry of Finance
Chairman, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, Mumbai
Ms Aditi Das Rout, Director, Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry 
Dr. Manoranjan Hota, Director, HSMD, Union Minister of Environment & Forests
Shri Sanjay Parikh, Lawyer, Supreme Court
Member Secretary, Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB)
Chairman, GPCB
Chairman, Gujarat Maritime Board
Shri S K Sharma, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board
Shri C A Joseph, Under Secretary, MF Desk, Union Ministry of Steel
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