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

09/01/2010

Toxic waste trade, Basel Convention & US

US based groups, friends and colleagues are earnestly requested to ensure that the moratorium on trade in hazardous ships is not lifted by the Obama administration that is acting on the advice of Lawrence Summers, President of US National Economic Council.

It would amount to the first glaring defeat of environmentalism in this new year and more might follow all throughout the year. This would tantamount to a premature obituary of the Basel Convention as well. The conspicuous absence of Secretariat of the Basel Convention, Geneva, Switzerland in a situation when the Convention is being burnt is intriguing. Is it that Secretariat of the Basel Convention has been driven to inaction and frozen passivity by hazardous waste traders for good.

US Maritime Administration (MARAD) is made to act against dead US ship Platinum II (formerly MV Oceanic, SS Independence) and the Obama Administration is persuaded to recall the dead toxic ship from Indian waters. Notably, USEPA acted against the toxic ship but still it slipped out of US waters. Gujarat Maritime Board, India in its letter dated 1st December, 2009 has noted that US agencies are yet to respond to it. Earlier, Indian Environment Ministry in its letter dated 9th November, 2009 took cognisance of violation of US Toxic Substances Control Act.

MARAD's deafening silence reveals the plan to export of the obsolete US ships to India or other South Asian beaches in order to avoid the environmental and safety liabilities involved if the ship were to be scrapped in the US. The rate of accident and enviro-occupational disease in the shipbreaking industry is alarming high.

Amidst 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 in the middle of a probe on the dumping of dead US ship Platinum II (formerly MV Oceanic, SS Independence) laden with PCBs and asbestos, the visit by UN Special Rapporteur Okechukwu Ibeanu to Alang, Mumbai and New Delhi assumes significance.

The hazardous wastes laden US ship in question has already been penalized by USEPA in January 2009 for violation of US Toxic Substances Control Act but the connivance of the US Maritime Administration (MARAD) in letting a proven PCB laden ship to move out of US waters seems to be part of Obama adminstration's plan to lift the moratorium which was placed on the sale of US Government-owned ships-for-scrap to foreign yards after protests outside the US embassy in New Delhi in 1998. The moratorium was placed by U.S. vice president Al Gore. The implications of disposal of hundreds of old hazardous ships in Alang, India and other South Asian beaches Chittagong, Bangladesh and Gadani, Pakistan would be horrifying.

The Special Rapportuer of the UN Human Rights Council on the adverse effects of the movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights is meeting civil society groups in New Delhi on 13-14th January.

Among other things the Special Rapporteur would examine and report on 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. Ships are considered hazardous wastes under the Basel Convention.

Since its inception in 1982, ship breaking yard at Alang beach has dismantled 5,000 dead ships till January 2010. US remains a non-party to the Basel Convention. Do we know as to in how many cases Secretariat of the Basel Convention intervened since its birth? It should be made to act.

The illegal shipment of hazardous waste "from industrialised countries is being shipped to less developed countries under the listed intention of recycling and reclamation," is a serious problem, notes INTERPOL, that is part of the Green Customs Initiative (GCI) of World Customs Organization in collaboration with the secretariats of multilateral environmental agreements including INTERPOL.

According to GCI, national and international crime syndicates earn 20-30 billion US dollars annually from hazardous wastes dumping, smuggling proscribed hazardous materials, and exploiting and trafficking protected natural resources. Illegal international trade in “environmentally-sensitive” commodities such as ozone depleting substances, toxic chemicals, hazardous wastes, endangered species and living modified organisms exposes the glaring loopholes in national and international laws.

Clearly, environmental crime and escaping of decontamination cost by global shipping companies in collaboration with international recycling industry is a significant and increasingly lucrative business. Groups who are opposed to toxic trade that is being part of free trade agreements (like the one with Japan) are also planning to meet the Special Rapportuer of the UN Human Rights Council on the adverse effects of the movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes to apprise him about it.

Success of the Special Rapportuer 's report would be measured in terms of the extent to which it rejuvenates Basel Convention, and UNEP and in making UN Human Rights Council take action to arrest the national and international crime syndicates which undertakes hazardous waste trade with impunity.

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