This group tracks the responses of shipping industry towards environmental health concerns, highlights influence of shipping companies from EU, US and Japan etc on IMO and its Marine Environment Protection Committee & South Asian governments. It is keen to restore beaches in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan to their pristine glory for the coming generations. For more information visit: www.toxicswatch.org, banasbestosindia.blogspot.com
Open Letter to Shipping MInister to Save Alang Beach
Shri G K Vasan
Union Minister of Shipping ,
Government of India
New Delhi- 110001
Subject-Save Alang Beach
I am an environmental health researcher working in the area of “Recycling of Ships”. I represent a coalition of groups working on environmental, labour and human rights. In the matter of ship breaking/recycling and dumping of obsolete ships in Indian waters, I am an applicant in the Supreme Court as well. I was involved in the famous Le Clemenceau, the French ship case as well. Also I am involved in a national campaign to save India's dying beaches including once pristine beach of Alang, Bhavnagar, Gujarat.
This letter is an urgent request to you for the protection of the Alang beach.
Unmindful of the Indian Supreme Court order and the report of the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Petitions, European and Chinese shipping companies and agencies have bulldozed the adoption of the text of a new international treaty on ship recycling/breaking through International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in May 2009 in Hongkong, China to ensure that shipowners of the developed world escapes the decontamination cost in the country of export due to to non-implementation of laws in India.
Consequently, the ongoing contamination of Alang beach in Gujarat continues and no heed is paid to the fatal accidents at the ship dismantling yards. Currently, Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) supervises the secondary steel production process of ship dismantling. Clearly, it is not a marine activiry over which GMB or IMO could be deemed a competent body.
The recent incident of two more deaths occurred on the 1st June on Plot 15 of the ship-breaking yard at Alang beach involved a labourer identified as Ayodhyasingh Rajput (35). Rajput was a native of Jharkhand and was employed by a local company named Chantivala Contractor. Newsreports note that the authorities have confirmed that the incident bore resemblance to yet another fatal accident that occurred at Plot 24 D in May, 2009. In both the cases, workers died when the crane’s rope carrying big steel plates cut from discarded ships broke and fell on them. Alang witnessed its first major workers’ strike around two months back. Alang yard employs close to 15,000 workers mainly in the unorganized sector.
A large number of these workers are migrants from Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, Bihar and Jharkhand and continue to live in hutments, with no provision of clean drinking water and electricity. A Supreme Court-appointed committee revealed that the fatal accident rate in ship-breaking industry is in the range of 2 per 1000 as opposed to 0.34 per 1000 in the mining industry. The fatal accident rate at Alang is around 50-60 per year.
You may find the URL of the European coverage of the issue at http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/ships/index.htm
It also has Indian Supreme Court order that is related to the case I am involved in.
More than 100 ships are currently beached illegally in Alang. These days nearly 25 to 30 vessels are coming to the Alang beach every month. Even as teh Supreme Court is seized with the matter, these ships have entered Indian waters in violation of the apex court's orders and the UN's Basel Convention on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal. It poses a grave threat to our country's environmental security.
It is high time the secondary steel production process of ship dismantling is entrusted to the respective Industry Department and the industrial activity is taken off the beach.
In this regard I also wish to submit that the regressive nature of the recently adopted IMO treaty creates a compelling logic for India to disassociate itself from it becasue it promotes status quo and permits ongoing contamination of once pristince beaches to the detriment of the fragile coastal environment, communities and workers. The treaty's glaring failure lies in its inability to deal with the issue of radioactive steel as well.