Troubled waters

Two US ships used for carrying hazardous waste were broken in Gujarat

Published: Monday 15 September 1997

reports that two ships of us origin had entered the Indian maritime zone to be broken up at one of the country's ship breaking yards created a stir in the Lok Sabha on August 5 when it came to light that the ships in question were used for transporting hazardous substances. This incident exposed the lack of implementation of environmental norms and laws when it came to ship breaking in India, something that could well have been exploited for years.

According to officials at the ministry of environment and forests ( mef ), requests for permission to send the ships into Indian waters from the us embassy had been turned down by the ministry. Yet the ships had somehow entered Indian waters. Under us laws, permission of the country where the ship breaking is to take place has to be sought.

Newspaper reports had indicated that the ships had reached the Alang ship-breaking yard in the gulf of Cambay in Gujarat. While the mef is in the dark about the details of the two ships, reports point out that the 8000 metric tonne (mt) Overseas Valdez, and the 15,713 mt T T Kittanning, could be the two ships in question. The ships were 'already in an advanced state of being broken up', which would imply that they had been beached for quite a while. Gujarat accounts for 90 per cent of the ship breaking industry in the country.

Nityanand Jayaram, Greenpeace International's representative in India, says that while they did not have specific details of this particular instance, Greenpeace would look into the issue. "As a result of the breaking up process, any amounts of toxic substances from the ships' lining could have been released into the local eco-system," he said.
Following the uproar, Saifuddin Soz, the minister for environment and forests, constituted a committee to examine the kind of hazardous material carried by the two ships. He admitted that the ships had entered Indian waters. Suraj Bhan, deputy speaker of the house, directed that the government should frame proper laws to prevent ships carrying dangerous material from entering India for ship breaking.

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.