Blue Lady’s illegal toxic oil sale under scanner
In the last order, the petitioner’s lawyer had pointed out that the oil lying on the ship is safer than its presence on the shore since taking it out would create complications due to prevalent illegal trade of waste oil etc. But the lawyer appearing on behalf of Priya Blue Industries Ltd who is seeking to dismantle the ship had argued that due to monsoons there is a danger of contamination of sea due to oil spillage. Therefore, it was necessary to shift the oil from the ship.
Considering latter’s submission, the bench of Dr. Justice Arijit Pasayat and Mr Justice S.H. Kapadia ordered, “Without claiming any equities, the Ship Breaking Unit shall be permitted to remove oil from the ship under the supervision and guidance of the Gujarat Pollution Control Board and the Gujarat Maritime Board. It shall be ensured by these two authorities that the activity does not result in any environmental pollution because of spilling of oil. The authorities concerned shall record the details about the weight of oil to be removed from the ship.”
Unfortunately, what was apprehended came true since the oil, which was removed from the ship, has been sold in the market without the court’s permission. It is now for the GPCB and Gujarat Maritime Board to explain as to why oil and toxic waste oil were disposed of in tearing hurry.
Including waste oil, “The import of 29 items has already been prohibited under Schedule – 8 of the Hazardous Waste Rules as amended in May, 2003”, as per specific Supreme Court order. The order noted, “Basel Convention has banned 76 items.” Basel Convention is an UN treaty on movement of hazardous wastes. It further clarified that “It is implicit that if more items are banned, the corresponding Notification shall be issued by the Central Government under Section 11 of the Customs Act.” The HW Rules allow import of certain items subject to fulfillment of conditions. The court did observe that “it appears that unscrupulous traders in the garb of importing used oil or furnace oil, in fact, import waste oil which is a banned item.”
There has been no compliance of these directions in the case of Blue Lady and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has not even been intimated about the same. Supreme Court in the matter of Ship Breaking dealing with “Decontamination of ships before they are exported to India for breaking”, has specifically directed that “Before a ship arrives at port, it should have proper consent from the authority concerned or the State Maritime Board, stating that it does not contain any hazardous waste or radioactive substances. AERB should be consulted in the matter in appropriate cases.” The regulatory authority of AERB is derived from the rules and notifications promulgated under the Atomic Energy Act and the Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986. A letter has been sent to the Chairman, AERB seeking his intervention to ascertain the hazards and the ensure compliance with Atomic Radiation Protection Rules, 2004 and the court order.
Meanwhile reports of new evidence of huge radioactive material named Americium 241 has come to light. On exposure this radioactive material is known to concentrate in the bone, liver and muscle and can expose surrounding tissues to radiation, thereby increasing the risk of cancer even as Environment Secretary headed Committee of Technical Experts (CTE) has opined that “the presence of radioactive materials in a passenger ship like “Blue Lady is quite unlikely.” In a letter to CTE, ship’s former Project Manager Tom Haugan has said that there is Americium 241 at 5500 detection points on Blue Lady.