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

14/01/2010

Special Rapporteur to examine hazardous wastes like obsolete Ships

UN Special Rapporteur on Toxics Wastes is examining the issue of obsolete ships that are considered hazardous wastes under the Basel Convention. This is being done in the backdrop of rampant violation of UN laws such as Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade and Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and the significance of his visist in the midst of a probe on the dumping of dead US ship Platinum II (MV Oceanic, SS Independence). The alaraming rise in the consumption of asbestos in India and arrival of asbestos laden ships in India also came in for mention.

The Special Rapporteur would report on the compliance of UN's Basel Convention's Technical Guidelines for the Environmentally Sound Management of the Full and Partial Dismantling of Ships was adopted in 2002 by decision VI/24 of the sixth meeting of the Conference of the Parties. India is a party to it. The 94 page guidelines provide information and recommendations on procedures, processes and practices that must be implemented to achieve Environmentally Sound Management at ship dismantling facilities.

Since its inception in 1982, ship breaking yard at Alang beach has dismantled 5,000 dead ships till January 2010. In the last 4 years more than 700 dead ships arrived in Alang. at present, there are around 17000-18000 trained labours engaged in ship recycling at Alang by the Ship Recyclers.

India is the world's largest shipbreaking nation in terms of volume. According to the Basel convention report of 2003, in Asia, it was estimated that 38 percent of shipbreaking activities are being conducted in India, followed by China 25 percent, Bangladesh, 19 percent, and Pakistan 7 percent. This has underwent a change with India and Bangladesh being ahead of China at present.

As per the Supreme Court of India, "Before a ship arrives at port, it should have proper consent from the concerned authority or the State Maritime Board, stating that it does not contain any hazardous waste or radioactive substances." And with regard to hazardous wastes, its orders "Disposal of waste material, viz. oil, cotton, dead cargo of inorganic material like hydrated/solidified elements, thermo- Cole pieces, glass wool, rubber, broken tiles, etc. should be done in a proper manner, utilizing technologies that meet the criteria of an effective destruction efficiency of 99.9 per cent, with no generation of persistent organic pollutants, and complete containment of all gaseous, liquid and solid residues for analysis and, if needed, reprocessing. Such disposed of material should be kept at a specified place earmarked for this purpose. Special care must be taken in the handling of asbestos wastes, and total quantities of such waste should be made known to the concerned authorities. The Gujarat Pollution Control Board should authorize appropriate final disposal of asbestos wastes."

As government reports, the rate of accident is worst in the industrial sector. Its 2 workers per 1000. And 16 % of the workers are exposed to asbestos, as per a report of the Supreme Court committee. This is an underestimate but even this too reveals an allarming situation.

Government policy with regard to ship breaking and shipping industry is based on the Supreme court's order that reads, "At the international level, India should participate in international meetings on shipbreaking at the level of the International Maritime Organization and the Basel Convention’s Technical Working Group with a clear mandate for the decontamination of ships of their hazardous substances such as asbestos, waste oil, gas and PCBs, prior to export to India for breaking."

The dead US ship Platinum II (SS Oceanic, SS Independence) is at the Bhavnagar Anchorage Point and is under probe. The Environment Ministry has invoked precautionary principle. Beaching and breaking permission to the dead US ship has been denied. The ministry has taken cognisance of teh violation of US Toxic Substances Control Act and it expects that other concerned agencies would take immediate action to ensure that national and international laws are complied with and the guilty are brought to book. Supreme Court constitued Inter-ministerial committee through Ministry of Steel (the nodal ministry) has written to Environment Ministry, Shipping Ministry and Gujarat Martime Board asking them who should be held accountable for letting this ship to eneter Indian waters on fake documents. A FIR is likley to lodged against the owners for forgery of documents.

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