Britain is sending its ‘toxic’ ships to India to be scrapped: Greenpeace
Britain is flouting international law in sending its ‘waste ships’ to be scrapped at India’s largest ship-breaking yard Alang, in Gujarat, says the environmental activist group Greenpeace.
On November 13, Greenpeace’s flagship Rainbow Warrior, currently sailing off the Gujarat coast in the Gulf of Cambay, tracked the Genova Bridge, an end-of-life vessel from the United Kingdom to Alang. Greenpeace alleges that the ship is laden with toxic substances like PCBs, asbestos, waste oil sludge, TBT, etc.
Ironically, the ship arrived on the shores of Saurashtra on November 9, 2003, even as British authorities refused to grant permission to US naval ships to be scrapped on their shores, following environmental concerns raised by the British public, environmental organisations and the authorities themselves.
Greenpeace activists who met Union environment and forests minister T R Baalu say that the ships found in India “contravene international agreements and breach national laws ”.
While controversy rages in Europe over the US ships, Britain and other European countries are quietly transporting their waste ships to developing countries, in breach of the 1992 Basel Convention on trans-boundary transfer of hazardous material, says a Greenpeace India release.
On November 12, 2003, the Rainbow Warrior arrived in Alang on the first leg of its ‘Corporate Accountability tour of India’, which aims to expose corporations that are committing crimes against nature and humanity.
“Indian authorities should realise that the ship-breaking business cannot be practised without ensuring the implementation of Supreme Court directives, while toxic-ship-exporting nations will have to keep in mind that they cannot make a mockery of the Basel Convention, all this at the cost of our environment and the health of thousands of impacted communities,” says Ramapati Kumar, a Greenpeace ship-breaking campaigner on board the Rainbow Warrior.
Greenpeace has demanded that the British authorities ensure that the toxic material on board the ship is removed and taken back to Britain to be disposed off.
A total of 11 ships have been sold by UK ship-owners for illegal scrapping in Asia during 2003.
“This is a classic case of double standards. While the UK authorities don’t want US waste in their backyard, they are happy to illegally dump their own elsewhere -- failing to ensure safe removal of toxic substances and safe conditions for the workers in the developing world,” says Kumar.
The green group contends that end-of-life vessels constitute waste and should fall under the ambit of the Basel Convention. However, international maritime authorities do not accept the notion that ships to be scrapped are waste.