‘Toxic’ ship headed for India, environment activists warn
NEW DELHI: Environment activists warned yesterday that a cargo ship suspected of having toxic material on board was headed to India to be dismantled at a shipyard in the state of Gujarat.
The “Gulf Jash” was on its way to India after it was turned away by Vietnam and Bangladesh, said Gopal Krishna, of the environmental group Toxic Watch Alliance.
The ship is laden with asbestos, toxic PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), fuel and chemical residues, according to Krishna, who said he had been tracking it since 2006 when its owner started trying to find a place to dismantle it despite the hazardous materials on board.
Indian authorities have said they are waiting for a report from the Gujarat government before making a decision about whether to allow it to enter Indian waters.
Jairam Ramesh said he had asked the Gujarat government for a “factual report” on the position of the ship.
India has one of the world’s largest industries for breaking down old ships and oil tankers, but like most countries it does not accept ships with toxic materials. However, lax enforcement of laws means ships with toxic materials are accepted for dismantling by unscrupulous contractors and tens of thousands of labourers, working with bare hands or minimal protection, are exposed to deadly substances.
Environmental groups have for years urged Indian authorities to enforce laws regulating the industry.
Ritwick Dutta, a lawyer with NGO Shipbreaking Platform, an environment group that tracks toxic ships, says in India ships are dismantled close to the shore. “The ships are broken down by hand and cut open with blowtorches,” he said. – Sapa-AP