Published Date: Sep 15, 2011
THE SHIP-BREAKING IS A POLLUTION HEAVEN! (SDPI PRESS RELEASE)
South Asian countries must not allow the use of their beaches as dumping grounds for old western chemically contaminated and extremely hazardous ships. The Ship-breaking is pollution heaven especially in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh where exploitation is being done instead of employment of poor and marginalized.
This was agreed by speakers at a special seminar entitled “Environmental and Social Issues of Ship-Breaking Industry” organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Monday. They maintained that ship-breaking yards must not be allowed without proper environmental protection and sound management of asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), ozone-depleting substances (ODS), and a range of heavy metals. They also talked about the plight of poor workers working in extremely unsafe, unhygienic and exploitative environment and stressed upon the need for their welfare and provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Dr. Aurangzaib Khan, Chief Environment, Planning Commission of Pakistan chaired the proceedings and maintained that social and environmental aspects of ship-breaking industry require serious considerations at policy level and he is happy that SDPI highlighted this issue. He reaffirmed his support to steer the environmental agenda and close working of Planning Commission of Pakistan with civil society organizations on the subject.
Speaking at the occasion, Syeda Rizwana Hasan, Advocate Supreme Court of Bangladesh and Programs Director, Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) said that ship-breaking yards should be closed in the region as they are not environmentally safe, economically beneficial and socially productive.
She cited that although ship-breaking industry provides 25 % of iron core and livelihood to 18000 workers, but its environmental and social costs are unprecedented for Bangladesh. She informed that coastal fishing in Chitagong is almost gone, 14 species of fish have become extent, thousand of acres of mangrove forest are chopped off and the whole area have become chemically polluted with un-reparable damage to human health.
Ms. Hasan expressed that civil society organizations in Bangladesh have successfully campaigned against ship-breaking yards. As a result, Supreme Court of Bangladesh in a landmark decision directed the Bangladesh government to introduce regulations and allow only those ships for breaking in Bangladesh which are thoroughly cleaned by ship owners for all types of chemicals, pollutants, residues and contaminations. As cleaning of ships is extremely costly, ship breaking became no more economically viable. So this decision put a temporary hold on industry for some time, as ship breaking again restarted in complicity with government officials after paying hefty bribes to them, she added.
She rejected International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulations as they placed responsibility on ship breakers and not on western ship owner who are the primary responsible for contamination. She informed that Western countries are evading responsibilities as they do not directly send ships to South Asia for breaking. Instead, they send the ship to places like Monrovia, change flags and then send to South Asia for ship breaking to avoid environmental binding and regulations. We need to sent clear message to western world that our beaches are not dumping grounds and lives of our poor labors are not cheap to play with, she added.
She alarmed that Pakistan is once again becoming the hub of unsafe ship-breaking activities as 107 ships were dismantled this year as compared to 7 ships last year.
Earlier documentary ‘Iron Eaters’ was screened after which Kanwar M. Javed Iqbal, Research Associate, SDPI gave a detailed presentation on ship breaking industry, its issues and possible solutions. He said that currently, the global center for ship breaking and recycling industry is located in South Asia, specifically in Bangladesh, India, China and Pakistan who account for 70–80 percent of the international market for ship breaking of ocean-going vessels. This is mainly due to a shift seen in 1980 as a result of global environmental order when several countries enacted legislation to ban ship-breaking in their countries. As a result, this industry has been shifted towards South Asia region. This however, he said, comes with an unprecedented damage to nature and exploitation of workers at large.
He put forth some recommendations such as workers registration, obligatory onsite pollution and safety control equipment, provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to workers, drafting and implementing environmental health and safety procedures and Ship Recycling Protocol, training/capacity building , health care system and hazardous waste disposal thermal treatment facility.