Published Date: Oct 29, 2013
Pakistan. An urgent need to recognize ship-breaking as an industry
Pakistan is faced with an urgent need to recognize ship-breaking as
an industry and develop a coherent environment-friendly ship-recycling
strategy. This was highlighted at a seminar on "Sustainable
Ship-recycling Industry", organized by the Sustainable Development
Policy Institute, Pakistan (SDPI). The seminar also featured the launch
of a research report titled “Pakistan Ship Breaking Outlook: The Way
Forward for a Green Ship-recycling Industry”.
The research report was a joint effort of SDPI and the
Non-Governmental Organization Ship Breaking Platform (NSP). The session
was moderated by Dr. Mahmood A. Khawaja, Senior Adviser on Chemicals and
Sustainable Industrial Development at SDPI.
In his welcome address, Dr. Abid Qaiyum Suleri, Executive Director,
SDPI, encouraged the efforts of NSP for highlighting environmental and
health related aspects of the ship-breaking industry at the
international level. He observed that the industry needs to be
recognized as it is a source of livelihood for many and can also
contribute in terms of boosting employment in the country.
Kanwar Javed, lead author of the report, informed that the study
analyses the global economic and legal framework in which the ship
breaking industry in Pakistan is embedded. The study also sheds light on
the linkages of the sector to the global maritime industry and its
recycling practices. The report includes a case study based on the
current conditions in the ship breaking yards at the coastal region of
Gadhani, Pakistan. The report goes on to propose a way forward for a
greener and environment-friendly ship recycling industry in Pakistan.
Patrizia Heidegger, Executive Director of NSP and also a co-author in
the report, introduced the main findings of the report. She shared that
Pakistan still does not have any have defined Standard Operating
Procedures (SOPs) to deal with hazardous wastes and other materials
retrieved from ships. To make matters worse, hazardous waste from
ship-breaking activity has been accumulating over the years in Gadhani.
She highlighted that there was an urgent need to establish
waste-management facilities in the ship-breaking industry in Pakistan so
as to avoid environmental and health damages that accrue from these
activities. She also pointed out that ship-breaking has now been
formally recognized as an industry at the international level. There are
lessons that can be learnt, particularly in terms of setting industrial
rules and regulations, from ship-breaking industries in countries like
China and India.
Moreover, law enforcement in Pakistan remains weak, despite the fact
that environment related laws are already in place in the country, such
as the Pakistan Environment Protection Act 1997 and Factories Act 1934.
“With joint efforts from relevant government bodies, shipbreaking
industry, civil society and a special support from international
organisations, ship-breaking in Paksitan can be turned into modern
business safe industry”, she stressed.
Helen Previer, Chairperson, NGO Ship-breaking Platform, said that the
overarching goal of the organization is to prevent toxic end-of-life
ships from being beached in developing countries. She said the goal of
NSP is to find sustainable solutions that encompass the principles of
human rights, environmental justice, “polluter pays”, and clean
Arifa Khalid, Member of National Assembly, appreciated the activity
of engaging in policy discussion and dialogue for research. She observed
that through such activities, policy makers as well as the masses can
be made aware of pressing issues in public policy for social welfare.
Syeda Rizwana Hasan, a renowned environmental lawyer from Bangladesh,
emphasized the need to communicate to the international community that
developing nations should not be used as dumping grounds for hazardous
waste and pollutants that come with discarded ships.
Robert Evans, former British parliamentarian said that in South Asian
ship-breaking yards, workers are exposed to chemicals which can deeply
harm the nervous system. Organic pollution coming from sewage can cause
serious health risks for workers. He emphasized that the ship-breaking
industry in Pakistan is still non-cognizant of international laws and
thus fails to protect its own workers from hazardous waste. Majid
Bashir, Advocate Supreme Court, discussed that present judiciary has
announced green benches to oversee environmental issues in the country.
However, it is important to follow compliance reporting and guidelines
provided by these conventions.
Speakers at the event also stressed issues such as workers’ health
and safety rights, freedom of association, worker welfare and benefits,
contractual agreements compatible with worker issues, and due diligence
to labor laws. A representative from the Shipbreaking Labour Union in
Gadhani demanded a raise in workers’ wages. It was also highlighted that
workers that need to be made award of health related aspects of their
activities in the industry. International laws with regards to
ship-breaking have already been recognized in many countries, and it is
about time that the Government of Pakistan steps up efforts in this