28 October 2011

Shipbreaking Workers: HC asks for ensuring safety

The High Court yesterday issued 4 directives on the government to ensure safety of ship breaking workers against the backdrop of recent accidents that killed 8 workers.

In response to a writ petition, the court asked the environment and forest ministry to submit a report on whether a high-powered technical sub-committee is operating as per the court's directives, the terms and conditions mentioned in the environmental clearance certificate are being met and the condition of the country's ship-breaking yards is safe for workers.

The bench ordered the Department of Explosives to submit the gas-free certificates it issued in favour of Fortune Shipyard, SRS Shipyard, RK Shipyard and Jiri Subedar Shipyard.

The 8 workers of these companies died between September 17 and October 16 in Chittagong.

The court directed the director (enforcement) of the Department of Environment to file a report identifying the causes behind the recent explosions.

It also ordered the Chief Inspector (factory) of the Department of Explosives to submit a report on whether the family members of the dead workers received adequate compensation and the injured received required costs for treatment.

The HC bench of Justice AHM Shamsuddin Chowdhury and Justice Jahangir Hossain came up with the directives following the petition filed by Bangladesh Environment Lawyers Association (Bela).

The bench however did not mention any time limit for complying with its directives.

The organisation moved the petition seeking HC directives on the government to take necessary steps to ensure healthy environment for workers and prevent loss of lives at the shipbreaking yards.

Earlier on June 25, 2009 the HC spelled series of measures for safety of the workers and protection of the environment. It also ordered not to import any toxic ship within the territory of Bangladesh and to submit a pre-cleaning certificate before importing any ship for dismantling.

Following a petition filed by Bangladesh Ship Breakers' Association (BSBA), the HC on July 21 extended till October 12 its order allowing conditional import and dismantling of toxic ships, mentioning the importers and shipbreakers must ensure workers' and environmental safety.

The HC bench yesterday said it will not extend further its order permitting import of toxic ship.

Meanwhile, Bela in a release yesterday said there is no scope to import any toxic ship for dismantling in the country, since the HC order in this connection has already expired.

Bela's counsel Iqbal Kabir Lytton told The Daily Star that BSBA has further filed a petition on October 16 seeking six months' extension of its July 21 order.

The HC will hear the extension petition after its Eid-ul Azha vacation, he added.

Deputy Attorney General ABM Altaf Hossain represented the government.

Source: The Daily Star. 28 October 2011

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