Unheard Voices of Alang Workers & their Families:
Blue Lady does not profit the people & should be recalled
NGO Platform on Shipbreaking - Press Release
15 March 2007 (Delhi) – The updated version of the report entitled “End of Life Ships – the human cost of breaking ships” 1 was released today in Hindi (Majdhar Me Jeevan) by the Platform on Shipbreaking, a global coalition of environmental, human and labour rights organisations.
The release of the report is part of the ongoing campaign to bring the voices of migrant workers and their families from Bhojpuri speaking regions of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and from the Orissa villages to the attention of decision makers and the public at large. The central and the state governments remain callous towards the working conditions of these casual and contract workers as they are deemed politically insignificant. In these villages one will not meet a single family that is not affected by either handicap or death following accidents at the shipbreaking yard. No compensation is given to either the disabled workers or to support the families left behind.
Dealing with India’s most vulnerable workforce, the report assumes significance in the context of the ongoing case in the Supreme Court regarding the toxic cruise liner SS Blue Lady (aka SS Norway). The vessel entered Indian waters illegally on 30 June 2006 on so-called humanitarian grounds and beached illegally at Alang on 15 August 2006, where it still lays. Admittedly, the ship is laden with 1,240 tons of asbestos-contaminated material and other hazardous materials. The matter is in the Supreme Court since May 2006, the ship is a test case for rule of law in India and for the jurisprudence with regard to the global trafficking of hazardous wastes.
So far however, the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India and the Supreme Court have confined themselves with the technicality of the anchoring and beaching in the face of gross violation of national and international law.
Indian Government officials seem to be hand in glove with Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL), owners of the SS Blue Lady and a subsidiary of Star Cruises Ltd., which is acting with the help of proxy buyers who bought it at a price of 10 dollars. Illegally exported from Bremerhaven, Germany on the false premise that the vessel would be repaired and reused NCL has misled German, Egyptian and Malaysian authorities. Now NCL is attempting to illegally pass on tonnes of toxic wastes to unsuspecting workers and communities surrounding Alang.
Supreme Court ought to be alive to the fatal consequences of exposing workers and villagers in the vicinity of Alang with asbestos, PCBs and other hazardous substances, and not, as it today seems, allow itself to be misled by the noticeably pro-active government officials and ship owners like NCL who are evidently in collusion. Not only the vessel, but also the 14th October, 2003 order and the Hazardous Waste Rules of 2003 will be ‘dismantled’ should the vessel be permitted breaking in Alang.
Oil spills, contamination of soil and water by bio accumulative hazardous materials such as PCBs and heavy metals make the shipbreaking yard in Alang one of the world’s top toxic hot spots, and the fact that 12 Gujarat Sarpanchs have impleaded in the case during the Supreme Court’s most recent hearing of the case on 12 March 2007, to seek remedy from the potential hazards only vindicates what environmental, labour and human rights groups have demanding for so long.
Attempts to dispose off the SS Blue Lady in Bangladesh in early 2006 failed when the Bangladeshi government recognized the public health and environmental dangers posed by the vessel. The Platform calls upon the Indian Supreme Court to echo this decision by sending the vessel back.
India and all other concerned governments need to implement the decision that all end-of-life vessels are from now on, and without exception, fully decontaminated prior to export. It is not acceptable that shipbreaking remains a 3D job – namely Dirty, Dangerous and Degrading. Further, the shipping industry itself should be held responsible for upgrading India’s shipbreaking yards so that obsolete vessels can be dismantled in respect of the fundamental rights of villagers, workers and protection of the environment.
Gopal Krishna, India coordinator/Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI): +91 98 180 896 60
Shahin Mohammed Ali, Bangladesh coordinator: +88 01819 535319
Ingvild Jenssen, project coordinator: Delhi: +919910296860, Brussels: +32 485 190 920
1 The International Federation for Human Rights, Platform on Shipbreaking, Greenpeace and YPSA.
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