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
Alang Remains a Graveyard of Workers
Apex Court to hear toxic ship cases
New Delhi/18/3/2010: Supreme Court has fixed 26 March to hear the matter concerning hazardous wastes and shipbreaking, even as International Maritime Organisation (IMO) certified Alang beach as a safe place for hazardous industrial activity like ship dismantling, one of the four persons who were injured in a fire that broke out in a ship while it was being dismantled at plot number 123 of Alang ship breaking yard has died. The accident had ahappened on 13 March, 2010. The injured were rushed to Dr DB Parikh Hospital in Bhavnagar. The condition of Lallan Singh, 32 years old from Maharajganj in Uttar Pradesh who died was critical. One of the injured was a minor. The other two are namely, Ram Chandra BInd and Brij Mohan SIngh.
The site of the accident Plot No. 123 is owned by Hussain Sheth And Sons Ship Breakers Pvt. Ltd, Tele: (O) (0278)2411240, Contact Person: Dilawarbhai - 9825205287.
In the Minutes of the meeting of the Inter-ministerial Committee (IMC) on ship breaking held on 04.02.2009 under the Chairmanship of Shri B.S. Meena, Additional Secretary and Financial Adviser (AS&FA), Ministry of Steel, it is noted that the Coast Guard representative and the Naval HQ representative had "expressed apprehensions that the vessels coming in for beaching sometimes ply very close to the oil rigs, which could be a potential for accidents." But the representative of Directorate General of Factory Advice and Service Labour Institute (DGFASLI) explained that "they have carried out the study at Alang and found that the workers are covered and provided with personal protective equipment (PPE). He however, stated that quality of PPE was not of the requisite quality and GMB and the employers need to ensure that better quality PPE are provided to the workers. The representatives of GMB clarified that they are giving basic safety training to workers and about 8000 workers have been trained. The fatal accident rate is at present nil at Alang."
The IMC must revise its position in the light of these accidents. Earlier, six labourers were burnt alive in an engine room at Alang ship breaking yard on 4/8/2009 on plot no. 24 in the morning at Alang in the premises of Alang Auto & General Engineering Co. (P) Ltd were cutting down the engine portion of ship ‘M S Jesica’ in the world’s largest ship scrapping yard.
Such things happen in a routine manner in Alang. Union Environment Secretary headed Supreme Court-appointed committee in its report has revealed that the fatal accident rate in Alang is in the range of 2 per 1000 as opposed to 0.34 per 1000 in the mining industry (which is considered worst in the industrial sector).
Two fatal accidents have been reported from the world’s largest ship-breaking yard in May and June 2009. Evena earlier accident that occurred on the 1st June, 2009 on Plot 15 of the ship-breaking yard involved a labourer identified as Ayodhyasingh Rajput. Such fatal accident occurred at Plot 24 D in May, 2009 as well. Similar accidents were reported in earlier months and years as well.
The industrial activity must be taken off the Alang beach to protect these dying workers and the coastal environment. The currently practiced “beaching method” whereby obsolete ships are run aground on ocean beaches for cutting and breaking apart in the intertidal zone can never be accomplished in a manner which is environmentally sound or protective of human health. Careful analysis of the intrinsic characteristics of beaching operations are conclusive that no amount of prescriptive improvements or protections can remedy the four fatal characteristics of intertidal beaching operations:
1. First there is the impossibility of containing pollutants on a tidal beach where hulls of ships are often breached accidentally or by cutting, or toxic paints erode or are abraded sending persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals and oils onto the beach and into the seawater;
2. Second, due to a shifting and soft wet tidal sand surface, there is the impossibility of rapidly bringing emergency response equipment, including fire-fighting equipment and vehicles, ambulances and cranes along side the ship, to assist or remove persons hurt inside the hull;
3. Third, the impossibility of allowing cranes to work alongside to lift heavy cut sections of a ship and thereby preventing heavy cut sections from being subject to gravity, shifting or falling directly into workers or into the marine environment; and
4. Finally, there is the absolute incompatibility of conducting hazardous waste management operations (which is what they are as long as ships contain hazardous wastes, in the ecologically delicate and vital coastal zone.
For Details: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance, Mb: 9818089660, Website: www.toxicswatch.com, Blog: imowatch.blogspot.com