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 IN LETHAL COMPANY
TWO SHIPS LADEN WITH TOXIC CARGO ARE GIVING ENVIRONMENTALISTS THE JITTERS, REPORTS JYOTIRMOY CHAUDHURI
THE ARRIVAL of two ships of North Korean origin at the world’s largest ship-breaking yard in Alang, Gujarat, has sparked a major controversy because of their highly ‘toxic cargo.’ Environmentalists have petitioned the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) to take a closer look at the two vessels — MV Theresa III and MV Theresa VIII — which will soon be dismantled by workers at the site.
“The state government needs to act immediately,” says Gopal Krishna of ToxicsWatch Alliance, a watchdog body active in Alang. Pressure from environmentalists had earlier forced the GMB to send back MT Mar, a Latvian vessel laden with asbestos and other toxic material.
Nearly 17,000 workers — unaware of the danger — slog for long hours exposed to the ships’ life-threatening cargo. The vessels, confirm India’s environment and steel ministries, carry tonnes of asbestos-laden material that are considered extremely hazardous. A recent independent study at Alang found 13 percent workers handling asbestos were exposed to carcinogenic substances. The report followed the visit last February of a factfinding UN team that tracked over 200 highly toxic vessels, in which men worked in the most appalling conditions.
Highly placed sources told TEHELKA that the two North Korean ships had been bought by one Kamal Kejriwal (a middleman) of Demo Shipping. GMB officials say there is nothing much to worry about because the ships will be brought regularly to Alang for dismantling. Disturbingly, though, it is difficult to trace the flag of the North Korean vessels, because almost 90 percent of such ships use flags of convenience by registering dead vessels in Liberia, Panama, St Vincent, landlocked Mongolia and Tuvalu. “We can only caution the workers,” says D Patel, a GMB official. According to port officials at Alang who chose not be identified, Theresa III is on the outer anchor of Alang and yet to be given a No Objection Certificate (NoC) to dock or berth there. The official said, "All ships that are wrecked at Alang are thoroughly scrutinised by a team of officials comprising the Gujarat Pollution Control Board, the Atomic Energy Regulation Board and the Department of Explosives before being allowed to be dismantled. The ship in question has not been issued an NoC to anchor at Alang."
Nearly 17,000 workers slog for long hours on IN LETHAL the unsafe ships
NoC to anchor at Alang." Gujarat Pollution Control Board officials could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.
The Gujarat Directorate of Industrial Safety and Health has routinely received complaints about health violations at Alang, but their warnings have failed to deter the ship-breakers. Says Praveen Nagarseth, head of India’s largest shipbreaking association: “Reclamation and recycling is a highly lucrative business and the workers wait for ships from all parts of the world. You cannot stop them.”
The lure of lucre has indeed won over humanitarian considerations. For, the workers who remain in prolonged contact with asbestos fibre slowly become victims of mesothelioma, an incurable form of lung cancer.
“Toxic vessels at Alang must be banned,” says Dr George Karimundackal of the Mumbai-based Tata Memorial Hospital. But so far it would seem that only he is complaining.
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From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 25, Dated June 26, 2010