In Focus

Published: Sunday 31 May 1998

The US has plans to continue sending ships to the ship breaking units in India. This decision has brought mixed news for nearly 45,000 workers at Alang, Gujarat. While the recommendation of the US department of Navy and the Maritime Administration (USMA) brings employment opportunity, the workers at Alang will now be at the mercy of the domestic environmental, health, safety and labour laws (Down To Earth, Vol 6, No 20).

The US had stopped scrapping ships in December after reports of health hazards and environment degradation in the US and other parts of the world. Last year, the environmental groups Basel Action Network (BAN) and Greenpeace International had brought the poor scenario at Alang to the notice of the ministry of environment and forests. After the present decision, the BAN has planned to wage a global campaign to close the loopholes in international and domestic laws that allow hazardous exports for ship breaking to continue.

According to BAN spokesperson, BAN would demand that the US government revoke its support for contaminated ships-for-scrap export. The group has planned to raise the issue at the next appropriate meeting of the Basel Convention in the Control of the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal.

The US had stopped sending ships overseas for scrapping after reports appeared about asbestos and PCB-related health disasters in various docks in the US and elsewhere. Following the reports, the US under secretary of defence for acquisition and technology had set up an Interagency Ship Scrapping Panel to study the dangers of a group of chemicals called polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs.

Meanwhile, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has claimed that the CPCB guideline would effectively stop the export of old ships to India for ship breaking.

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