13 August 2011

Field Project Summary: Environmental, social & cultural implications of a shipbreaking industry, Alang-Sosia, Gujarat, India

Revision Date: 1st November, 2000.

Title: Environmental, social and cultural implications of a shipbreaking industry, Alang-Sosia, Gujarat, India.

Goal: To develop preliminary wise practices for sustainable living in the Gujarat coastal area, based on surveys of socio-economic conditions and natural resources in the villages around the Alang-Sosia Ship Breaking Yard (ASSBY), before and after the setting up of the ASSBY.

Location: Ten villages near Bhavnagar city in Gujarat state, India, lying within a 12 km radius of the ASSBY.

Starting date: January 1999.

  1. University of Bhavnagar; Centre for Social Studies,  Surat; 
  2. Gujarat Ship Breakers Association; 
  3. Gujarat Maritime Board; 
  4. Gujarat Ecology Commission; 
  5. Bhavnagar Blood Bank; 
  6. Central Ground Water Board; 
  7. UNESCO: Social and Human Sciences Sector, Coastal Regions and Small Islands platform.
Pilot project leader:    
Prof. H. C. Dube, Life Science Department, University of Bhavnagar, Bhavnagar 364002, India
Tel: 91-0278-519824, Fax: 91-0278-519824/426706. 

An interdisciplinary project team comprising social and natural scientists, undertook surveys and key data collection in the following areas:

(1) Status and availability of natural resources (including flora, fauna and water) prior and subsequent to the setting up of the ASSBY in order to determine the impact of the ASSBY. (Since no well-documented data on the pre-ASSBY situation was available, the research team had to depend on the oral knowledge of the villagers).
(2) Socio-economic and cultural conditions of the village communities, including the status of infrastructure facilities and basic amenities in the study area.
(3) Changes in the life-styles of local communities subsequent to the setting up of the ASSBY, including the impact of the influx of an heterogeneous community of immigrant workers on the local communities. (Here too, except for government census records pertaining to population, literacy etc. the research team had to depend on the villagers' oral knowledge of the pre-ASSBY situation).

Achievements & Assessment:       

The major findings of the surveys prior and subsequent to the setting-up of the ASSBY are as follows:

(1) Inadequate provision of water facilities and the ever-increasing population in the study area has meant increased biotic pressure on the village ponds and rising levels of organic and chemical pollution in these ponds.
(2) There has been some destruction of coastal vegetation, including mangroves, in the wider area around ASSBY.
(3)  A noxious exotic weed, Partheneium, has spread in the area, as in other parts of India.  (Its spread is not directly related to the ASSBY).
(4) Increased economic activity due to the ASSBY has given rise to a construction boom which has led to encroachment on community grazing lands and increased pressure on fodder and fuel wood plants and ‘weed’ plants used in traditional medicine.
(5) Work at the ASSBY is economically more viable for pastoralists and subsistence farmers, who are drifting towards the ASSBY for alternate employment. Agricultural laborers have become scarce and more expensive; however, farmers who adopted improved farming techniques are doing well.
(6) Women are experiencing greater economic and political freedom.
(7) Overall, economic conditions, education and literacy have improved, but health facilities and awareness have shown only marginal improvement.
(8) There is greater social and cultural openness, caste-based rules are becoming less rigid. There is increasing consumerism and traditional values are being replaced by materialism.
(9) Antisocial activities are on the rise, immigrant laborers have not found acceptability among the natives.  They are believed to indulge in drinking, drug abuse, homosexuality and the hiring of prostitutes.
(10) The existing infrastructure facilities are inadequate for the ever rising immigrant population and this statement is also true for the resident population in the entire region.
A report on the Phase I activities will be published within the ‘CSI info’ series shortly.

Future Directions:    
A set of preliminary wise practices were formulated after the Phase 1 activities:

(1) Regeneration of fodder and fuel wood resources through NGO intervention programs.
(2) People’s participation in rainwater harvesting projects and deepening of village ponds with the help of government aid.
(3) Making agriculture a more viable livelihood by improving agricultural techniques and skills through extension programmes with the help of the local agricultural institution and the initiation of agro-industries.
(4) Heightening the level of awareness of the local communities about their changing environment and ways to manage the changes, and sensitizing them to the socio-cultural issues arising from the sudden economic growth and the associated exposure to urban and materialistic values resulting from the influx of immigrant workers. Religious discourses with the help of NGOs and local religious bodies may be an approach to be considered here.

A Consultation and Review Workshop was held at Bhavnagar, 27-28 July 2000.  During and after this workshop it was decided that Phase II activities would consist of stakeholder consultations between the four major groups: local communities, migrant workers, shipbreakers and the Gujarat Maritime Board; implementation of two of the wise practices proposed above; and the formation of an electronic discussion group (edg) to highlight and advance wise practices in the Gujarat coastal area.

Source: UNESCO 

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