15 September 2011

Don't dump toxic ‘Ranibow Warrior II’ on Bangladesh: Letter to Greenpeace

This is with reference to the role of Greenpeace, as a ship owner of end-of-life vessel Ranibow Warrior II (IMO No. 5300481) with port of registry as Amsterdam having flag of Netherlands and the position of Greenpeace on IMO's Hong Kong Convention on Ship Recycling amidst unprecedented assault by the global shipping industry and injection of undiluted poison into South Asia's coastal ecosystem.

I have been part of the research, advocacy and campaign against dumping of hazardous wastes and dead vessels in India in particular and South Asia in general. I have visited Bangladesh shipbreaking site on Chittagong beach several times. I am the focal point on shipbreaking related issues in India. I am also an applicant in the Supreme Court in the matter of hazardous wastes/shipbreaking case.

All along we have campaigned for off the beach ship disposal activity for dead vessels and highlighted the double standards of industrialized countries in protecting their own beaches and polluting South Asian beaches in Alang (Gujarat), Chittagong and Gadani (in Pakistan).

As a well wisher of Greenpeace, I wish to bring the following issues to your urgent attention before going public in the matter of discussions to transfer end-of-life vessel Ranibow Warrior II to Bangladesh:

  • I submit that that the proposed action of Greenpeace as a ship owner in the matter of end-of-life vessel Ranibow Warrior II is a reversal of its long cherished position on hazardous wastes trade, disposal of end-of-life vessels and Basel Convention. This will not only discredit Greenpeace but also environmental movement. It is too glaring to be missed.
  • I submit that the proposal to transfer of end-of-life vessel Ranibow Warrior II to Bangladesh in the name of turning it into a floating hospital appears insincere and seems to have been done at the behest of some ship owner.
  • I submit that European Union's position on IMO's Hong Kong Convention on Ship Recycling is a step backward. It is being done in furtherance of its position on India-EU Free Trade Agreement. The act of Greenpeace to opt out of ship breaking and its creation of a meek Platform to do its leftover job in face of mighty shipping companies seems to have been done under the influence of ship owning companies and countries. The very act of creating a proposal to transfer of end-of-life vessel Ranibow Warrior II to South Asia is an act of endorsement of regressive IMO's Hong Kong Convention on Ship Recycling contrary to GP's long held view on Basel Convention and Ban Amendment.
  • I submit that when the history of world's environmental movement is written, this act might be deemed as an act of betrayal. It seems to be guided by "national" environmentalism.
  • I express my strong opposition to the sophistry of  enhancing the life span of ship by donating or gifting and the use of word "Friendship" as an act of linguistic sleight of hand as if people in South Asia do not understand English despite having been slaves of Europeans for quite a while. I submit that it is a manifest act of externalisation of pollution.
  • I submit that the name of Greenpeace which has become a synonym for noble and global environmentalism built by the hard work of its activists will get tainted if it gets involved in the business of ship breaking in South Asia. This is unacceptable and future generations might deem it unpardonable.
In view of the above, I wish to take the opportunity to submit that EU position on IMO's Hong Kong Convention is regressive in comparison to EU’s own Waste Shipment Directive, Basel Convention and Ban Amendment. It appears that EU's golden hearted environmental concerns have become subservient to proposed Free Trade Agreements (FTA) and Hong Kong Convention. If that happens EU's moral position in all UN negotiations on Environment might suffer erosion beyond repair.

On behalf of Toxics Watch Alliance (TWA), I urge you to ensure that Greenpeace refrains from supporting Hong Kong Convention which allows South Asian beaches, a fragile coastal environment to be used for hazardous wastes dumping in the form of end-of-life vessels and ensure that hazardous waste trade does not get sanctified through linguistic sleight of hand in the FTAs. IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) should be asked what it has done to protect the Marine Environment of South Asia. Ongoing contamination of South Asian beaches by end-of-life European ships is a judgment against EU's environmental sensitivity. As long as South Asian beaches remain polluted, EU's stance on issues of global environment will appear insincere despite its funding of some obedient environmental organisations of EU and India.

Let me draw your attention towards the act of BASF is the largest chemical company in the world and is headquartered in Germany whose "Methyl Monomer" containers are lying at New Mangalore port. Mr G K Vasan, Indian Minister of Shipping has informed the Parliament about it. M/s BASF, Mangalore", the importer. BASF is the world's largest producer of acrylic monomer. Is it convincing that such a company has "Inadequate storage space in the factory premises" as has been claimed by BASF India Limited? This merits investigation by a high powered EU agency. Pursuant to a letter of Robert Donkers, Minister Counselor, Environment,

Delegation of the European Union to India dated June 16, 2011, I had written to him and he had responded saying "I have forwarded your e-mail and your comments to my European Commission colleagues in Brussels who are in charge of ship dismantling issues and have asked them to comment." I am still waiting for their reply.

The act of Greenpeace to transfer its end-of-life vessel to a South Asian beach is an equivalent of BASF's Act. It does not behoove the reputation of EU to facilitate hazardous waste trade in various disguises through willing entities. It is high time EU revised its current position and take a progressive positive at the upcoming tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention in Cartagena, Colombia (17 -21 October 2011). If Greenpeace allows transfer of its end-of-life vessel to Bangladesh beach, it would lose the moral high ground to take a position at COP10 of Basel Convention.

I earnestly appeal to you, to all the noble souls in the Greenpeace and to all its well wishers to ensure that this 'unthinkable' act is prevented and to ensure that Ban Amendment does not enter into force at the upcoming Cartagena meeting.

I am copying this message to the board members and some well wishers of Greenpeace who are opposed to hazardous waste trade in end-of-life vessels or in any other form.

I would have written earlier but I desisted thinking that someone within GP is playing some well intentioned mischief to test the moral and ecological fibers of its own activists and its well-wishers by proposing the transfer of a dead vessel to a South Asian beach.

I wish to discuss the issues involved threadbare before rushing to do anything else in this matter. I had discussed this matter in person with some of the members who too were disturbed to hear it. May I suggest that pending the outcome of our discussions in this regard, the transfer of dead Ranibow Warrior II to Mrs R Khan of Bangladesh entity "Friendship Bangladesh" be put on hold.

(Gopal Krishna I the convener, Toxics Watch Alliance and Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI), New Delhi. This letter by him has been addressed to Greenpeace)

Greenpeace members (L to R) Suzy Hutomo, Lalita Ramdas, and captain Mike Fincken hand over a float to Runa Khae, executive director of Friendship Bangladesh. Environmental campaign group Greenpeace on August 16 handed over its iconic protest ship Rainbow Warrior II to the Bangladeshi charity which will turn it into a floating hospital.

Source: The New Nation BD. By Gopal Krisna. 15 September 2011

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