13 December 2011

How can the Supreme Court directives be ignored?

Somebody should be held to account

IT is indeed astonishing that a draft guideline related to shipbreaking and recycling, prepared by the industry's ministry has ignored the directive of the Supreme Court mandating strict compliance of environmental laws of the country. Reportedly, some sections of the draft law that allow import of ships with hazardous substance, as also war ships and nuclear powered ships, violate rules and laws that ensure both workers' safety and prevent environmental pollution. And to top it all, the new guideline is based on a law obsolescent since 2006 and an international convention that will not take effect before 2015.

There is no denying that shipbreaking has assumed significance as a major industry and has a strong link with our economy. But regrettably, neither the caveats with regard to the type of ship that can be imported had been respected nor the minimum safety measures of the workers been fully ensured. It cannot be lost on the policy makers that 36 workers have been killed and many more that number injured in the last 6 months only in this industry.

The unchecked growth of shipbreaking yards in the coastal area of Chittagong has had tremendous deleterious impact on the ecology of the region in particular. The SC order was in that respect most timely and appropriate. Even World Bank reports apprehend that if this trend continues the Bangladesh coastline will face more environmental pollution than Pakistan in the next 2 decades.

One wonders what might be the motivation for circumventing the directives of the highest court of the land. And we wonder too whether the environment ministry has been kept out of the loop. It is not enough for the Secretary to say that they had tried their best to comply with the SC directives. The situation demands that the directives be followed in toto.

Source: The Daily Star. 13 December 2011

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