The Mercury

‘Toxic’ ship headed for India, environmen­t activists warn

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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.

Environmen­t Minister

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

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