11 October 2011

Another shipbreaking yard?

Proceed with caution

It is with more than a little bit of concern that we read the report, which appeared in this newspaper on Monday, about the government's plan to allow setting up of a new ship breaking yard in Barguna district on the banks of the Baleshwar. Perhaps the compulsion of the government to earmark new areas, given the way the industry has expanded, is understandable. And we also understand that the report of the committee set up in this regard is all but ready; however, the downside of the issue should not be overlooked.

There is no doubt that shipbreaking industry, or ship recycling yards as many term it, is linked with our construction industry, and any impediment to its growth is likely to have more than a ripple effect on the country's economy. But what concerns us is the blatantly unchecked way the industry has expanded, based on scrap ships with hazardous chemicals finding their way into the breaking yards. This has had the most severe impact on the ecology and the health of the workers. It has dealt a severe blow to the flora and fauna as well as the environment in the areas around the only shipbreaking yard in the country, Sitakunda.

In this regard the government must take note of the caution of the environmentalists that has been sounded from time to time, and as is being done now in this particular case, too. It is astonishing that in the five-member team that visited the proposed site one does not find the name of any DoE representative or of any environmentalist.

The proposed area is in an equally ecologically sensitive area, if not more, than the Chittagong coast, more so because it is in very close proximity of the Sunderbans. And the marine and bird life will face risk of extinction if such an inherently hazardous industry is allowed to be set up and operate without the standard precautions like insistence on pre-certification of a ship before it enters our territory.

There is need to consider the long term impact of a venture on the ecology of the country against the benefits.

Source: The Daily Star. 11 October 2011

No comments: