The High court has reasserted the need for safety-first in the ship breaking yards. We are constrained to say that profit motive alone has come to dominate actions of certain entrepreneurs to such an extent that the attendant deleterious effects of ship breaking have been totally overlooked. The HC's activism is welcome.
While no one will disagree that the ship breaking sector in Bangladesh, which has been identified as an 'industry' by the government very recently, has had tremendous positive impact on the country's economy given its lateral linkages, regrettably, it had been expanding uncontrollably and without fulfilling its obligation towards its workers and towards the environment on which the unbridled growth has had severe damaging impact.
It is unfortunate that some interested quarters have misrepresented the real situation and instead tried to project the efforts of those that have been pressing for workers' safety and environmental protection as being driven by ulterior motives and being anti development.
We are happy to note that the High Court (HC) has stuck to its position, and has allowed import of ships for dismantling on a temporary basis, pending framing of rules by the government on the matter, conditionally. In response to the Bangladesh Ship Breakers Association petition to withdraw its 19th January suo moto rule to stop ship breaking till further orders, the HC has allowed temporary import of ships for scrapping provided the safety of the workers were ensured, modern technologies were used in ship breaking and that the wastes were disposed off in a manner that did not harm the environment. It has embargoed the entry of uncleaned oil tankers and nuclear and passenger ships that contain toxic materials.
Not withstanding the potentials, no industry, least of all ship breaking, can afford to flout safety requirements. And in this regard the government must formulate the rules, as directed by the HC and keeping its directives in mind, within the three months allowed by the HC.
Source: The Daily Star. Tuesday, February 22, 2011