Indian media fails in Blue Lady Case
SC marks Environment Day; Allows import of asbestos-laden ship
In an ironical commemoration of the World Environment Day, the Indian Supreme Court on 5th June went against its own 1997 order and subsequent order of 14th October 2003 prohibiting import of hazardous wastes by permitting SS Blue Lady, a ship containing 1240 MT of toxic asbestos, to enter Indian waters.
Indian media failed to take note of the fact that the the court allowed anchoring of the ship on humanitarian grounds and not on legal grounds. The fact is that there is no legal ground for it to be allowed because its a case of illegal traffic of a toxic ship.
The ship under tow left Malaysia on May 5, 2005, after having fraudulently declared to port authorities there that it was destined for repairs in Dubai. The ship has made several attempts to reach scrap yards, including an aborted attempt late last year when the Bangladesh Government prohibited the toxic ship from entering the country on health and environmental grounds.
The ship does not have the mandatory Form 7 documents from country of export required for hazardous waste shipments. Neither does it have a complete inventory of toxic wastes, although the ship-breaker admits that the ship contains both asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyls, a neurotoxin.
The ship has been allowed to anchor in the India territorial waters on the basis of an interim report submitted by a Technical Committee chaired by Dr. Prodipto Ghosh, Ministry of Environment and Forests. Ironically, the technical committee consists of members from government agencies with known bias towards the ship-breaking industry and ex-naval officers. It has no representations from the public interest groups. The bias of the committee is evident from the fact that the interim report of the committee consults only the ship-breaker who has bought SS Blue Lady.
SS Blue Lady was lying in anchor in Malaysia since August 2005, but set sail declaredly for Dubai just as the monsoon was imminent. Rather than go to Dubai, they anchored out in the high seas to force the Indian authorities to allow the ship to come in on humanitarian grounds professedly to avoid the dangers of monsoon rough seas.
In 2005, Indian government with support from the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee, in flagrant violation of both Basel Convention and Supreme Court's October 2003 order, allowed beaching and dismantling of a Danish ship Riky despite repeated diplomatic recall requests from Denmark . In 2005-06, French aircraft carrier le Clemenceau was being allowed to enter Indian waters laden with toxic substances, till the French government recalled the ship from the high seas under intense public pressure and legal actions in the French courts.
India being a signatory to the Basel Convention has repeatedly failed to fulfill its Basel obligations. Infact, it has refused to acknowledge a ship laden with toxic substances in its structure and destined for dismantling to be a hazardous waste, as enshrined in the Decision VII/26 in Conference Of Parties-7 of Basel Convention in October 2004.
NGO PLATFORM ON SHIPBREAKING
Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI); 9818089660 ( Delhi)
Greenpeace India; 09845535414 ( Bangalore)
Corporate Accountability Desk; 9968015475 (Delhi)