10 September 2010

Bangladesh court bans shipbreaking yard leases:

Bangladeshi labourers are seen at a shipbreaking yard in Sitakundu on the outskirts of Chittagong 

Bangladesh's high court has banned the lease of coastal land to shipbreaking yards, a lawyer said Friday, in a ruling welcomed by environmentalists who say the industry destroys fragile eco-systems.

About a third of the world's condemned ships are dismantled at about 100 sprawling shipyards on beaches leased from local authorities along Bangladesh's southeastern coastline.

"The court has ruled the government and local authorities cannot issue leases on beaches or coastal land for commercial purposes," Iqbal Kabir, of the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, which brought the case, told AFP.

The government will have to designate specific areas of coastline for shipbreaking, Kabir said, adding that the court also revoked leases of five new yards set up on forest department land last year.

"If this ruling is implemented, every business on any coastline, or river bank will have to shut down," said Aman Chowdhury, an advisor to the Bangladesh Ship Breakers Association, a leading industry body.

"We will contest the ruling in the Supreme Court, and we are confident we will win," he added.

Dismantling old ships is a major industry in Bangladesh, providing more than two-thirds of domestic steel and creating tens of thousands of jobs.

The court verdict on Thursday follows a Supreme Court ruling last month that said all ships scrapped in Bangladesh must be certified toxic-free by the selling nation's environmental authorities.

The government attempted to impose the standards in January but was forced to back down in April after lengthy strikes by shipyards. Iron prices shot up 20 percent when the breaking yards shut.

Environmental groups say labour safety and environmental standards are routinely ignored in the scrap yards, leading to the deaths of at least 300 workers in the past decade and massive pollution.

Source: Hello News 352. 10 September 2010

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