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PADMAPARNA GHOSH
PADMAPARNA GHOSH

Articles by the Author

2006-2-28

As Le Clemenceau bobs on the horizon, reactions in India get sharper, noisier. We've discovered occupational safety. Asbestos is used in popular lingo. The workers at the shipbreaking yards of Alang have suddenly become people. Almost. For the media has realised how Alang is losing business to Bangladesh.

Fact is this decommissioned French warship isn't the first rejected vessel from industrialised countries to beach at Alang. To be torn down by workers who risk their lives to strip the steel to make a living. In 2005, the Danish ferry Riky stirred a similar hype. News channels couldn't get enough of waste coverage when explosions in metal scrap containing live ammunition killed 10 workers on the outskirts of Delhi. After a few blips on the toxic radar, life goes on just the same.

It is this business as usual that is truly bloodcurdling. Because India imports hundreds of tonnes of hazardous waste each year. This includes used syringes, incineration ash of municipal garbage and clinical waste, heavy metals that are known to retard the growth of children, carcinogenic polychlorinated biphenyls. India maintains records of all this. And does nothing to stop it.

Industrialised countries that ship this waste -- recyclable money, really -- to India have signed international treaties to not send hazardous waste to countries that don't have the facilities to handle them safely. A closer look reveals the method behind this madness. How the global shipping industry and rich countries make developoing countries fight over their waste. India refuses to learn from China, which has modernised its shipbreaking industry. India's raring to accept slow poisons. It is also hastening the death of its shipbreaking industry

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