Concerned about Alang workers' health Parliamentary Committee seeks National Policy, Court seeks legislation on ship breaking
Blue Lady still has huge amount of radioactive material besides asbestos, PCBs, Ballast Water, Incineration ash, lead acid batteries and Freon Gas
The Supreme Court today passed an order on the general directions pertaining to ship breaking activity in India. The arguments were heard by the bench presided over by Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice S. H. Kapadia. In the order Supreme Court has said that the report submitted by the Technical Experts Committee on Hazardous Wastes relating to ship breaking and the guidelines given by the Supreme Court shall continue to operate till legislation is brought into the effect.
The Supreme Court has also directed that the Committee consisting of MoEF, GPCB, GMB, AERB shall verify all the documents before ship is allowed for breaking. Giving these directions, the Supreme Court has referred to the earlier directions given in the comprehensive order dated 14.10.2003 on Hazardous Waste, Basel Convention and ship breaking. The order on Blue Lady (S S Norway), which was reserved on 5th September, 2007 shall be pronounced later. Now there are three kinds of directions. One, the 14th October, 2003 order. Two, the Supreme Court order in the September 2007 and three, the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee.
Meanwhile contrary to the admission of Gopal Subramanium, Additional Solicitor General in the Supreme Court on 5 September, 2007 that there is radioactive material only in 12 such smoke detectors on the ship named Blue Lady, Tom Haugan, the former Project Manager of the ship has written saying, "Please be adviced that the total numbers of "IONE, BJ-31" detectors with Americium 241 source counts more than 1100 units. These are installed mainly in areas which should have a quick respond to a fire for "warm" smoke and installed in ALL technical rooms engine room spaces etc. In accommodation areas there are installed optical detectors "BH-31" which are detecting smoldering fire better than Ione detectors. This is my confirmation and statement as former project manager for fire detection installation onboard SS Norway." This has been sent on 5th September, 2007.
Haugan has referred to his report that has been submitted in the court wherein it says, "The new fire detection system with Autronica BS-100, installed in 1990 s, was designed with approximately 5500 detection points and have 1100 of radio active elements, Americium 241. All sensors connected to the installed system from 1980 was replaced with Autronica smoke detectors, all loop cabling used and remaining, existing /old detectors from Signalco product was then destructed. From me and all partners within fire detection system equipment deliveries, we are very concerned for any removing / dismantling of all installed radio active detectors from its original back in 1960 and the new system installation. "
Even as the Supreme Court is all set to pronounce its orders in the case of Star Cruise Ltd' ship, Parliamentary Petitions Committee's Report on Blue Lady has been tabled in the Lok Sabha on 22 August. What is noteworthy is the fact that Environment Ministry has neither informed the apex court nor the Parliamentary Committee that the ships have radioactive material, handling of the same is fraught with hazardous consequences. The officials of both at the Ministry and the Gujarat Maritime Board have been guilty of dereliction of duty of not letting the workers and the concerned authorities know of the radioactive materials of the ships which come for dismantling.
In its recommendations the Committee has noted "The very fact that the Hon'ble Supreme Court had to intervene in the matter, underlines the failure of the Government to formulate till now any policy to regulate environmentally safe ship breaking activity in the country." The Committee are extremely concerned that the ship contain an estimated 1240 MT of Asbestos Containing Material and tonnes of Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCBs) as in-built material and as part of structure. In case the asbestos fibres are inhaled or human being consumes the PCBs, the same may cause cancer unless the workers take proper precautions for safe handling of these materials.
"The Committee strongly deprecates the repeated stand taken by the Ministry that since no hazardous wastes has been allowed on board as cargo, there is no violation of the Hon'ble Supreme Court directions." The Ministry has misled the Committee by not informing it about there being admittedly containers full of toxic incineration ash and non-examination of Ballast water, which are likely to have alien microorganisms.
Taking note of the fact that hazardous material meant for disposal even when it is part of structure must be deemed hazardous wastes, it said, "The Committee need not emphasize that the hazardous wastes whether as cargo or in-built material are equally detrimental to the environment and human health." It further recommended, "a National Policy should be framed by the Government to regulate ship breaking activities and dumping all toxic waste in the country. The policy should also cover establishment of facilities of international level for managing and disposal of hazardous materials such as asbestos, PCBs and other residues…The Committee also desire the Ministry to strongly campaign to create awareness amongst the people about the ill effects of asbestos and possible carcinogenic affects…"
The Committee unambiguously recommended, "…in no case, the ship breaking activities should be permitted at the cost of environment or safe and healthy life of workers." The Parliamentary Petitions Committee report came in response to the petition raised in Lok Sabha by Basudev Acharya, MP, CPI (M) in August 2006. The petition had argued that the sovereignty of the country is being infringed due to dumping of hazardous wastes from developed countries and sought examination of the role of the authorities in allowing entry to the ship Blue Lady in Indian territorial waters.
For details: Indian Platform on Ship-breaking, Mb: 9818089660