Environment Ministry misleads Parliamentary Committee

Information about radioactive material not divulged

New Delhi: Even as the Supreme Court is all set to hear the case of Blue Lady on 29 August, Parliamentary Petitions Committee’s Report on Blue Lady has been tabled in the Lok Sabha. What is noteworthy is the fact that Environment Ministry has neither informed the apex court nor the Parliamentary Committee that the ships have radioactive material, handling of the same is fraught with hazardous consequences. The officials of both at the Ministry and the Gujarat Maritime Board has been guilty of dereliction of duty of not letting the workers and the concerned authorities know of the radioactive materials of the ships which come for dismantling.

In its recommendations the Committee has noted “The very fact that the Hon’ble Supreme Court had to intervene in the matter, underlines the failure of the Government to formulate till now any policy to regulate environmentally safe ship breaking activity in the country.” The Committee are extremely concerned that the ship contain an estimated 1240 MT of Asbestos Containing Material and about 10 MT of Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCBs) as in-built material and as part of structure. In case the asbestos fibres are inhaled or human being consumes the PCBs, the same may cause cancer unless the workers take proper precautions for safe handling of these materials.

“The Committee strongly deprecates the repeated stand taken by the Ministry that since no hazardous wastes has been allowed on board as cargo, there is no violation of the Hon’ble Supreme Court directions.” The Ministry has misled the Committee by not informing it about there being admittedly containers full of toxic incineration ash and non-examination of Ballast water, which are likely to have alien microorganisms.

Taking note of the fact that hazardous material meant for disposal even when it is part of structure must be deemed hazardous wastes, it said, “The Committee need not emphasize that the hazardous wastes whether as cargo or in-built material are equally detrimental to the environment and human health.” It further recommended, “a National Policy should be framed by the Government to regulate ship breaking activities and dumping all toxic waste in the country. The policy should also cover establishment of facilities of international level for managing and disposal of hazardous materials such as asbestos, PCBs and other residues…The Committee also desire the Ministry to strongly campaign to create awareness amongst the people about the ill effects of asbestos and possible carcinogenic affects…”

The Committee unambiguously recommended, “…in no case, the ship breaking activities should be permitted at the cost of environment or safe and healthy life of workers.” The Parliamentary Petitions Committee report came in response to the petition raised in Lok Sabha by Basudev Acharya, MP, CPI (M) in August 2006. The petition had argued that the sovereignty of the country is being infringed due to dumping of hazardous wastes from developed countries and sought examination of the role of the authorities in allowing entry to the ship Blue Lady in Indian territorial waters.

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