17 December 2011

Worker, environment safety not ensured: SC asks govt to amend shipbreaking rules

The Supreme Court yesterday directed the government to amend the recently framed shipbreaking and recycling rules, as they do not ensure protection of workers and the environment.

It asked the administration to publish a gazette notification on the amended rules and place it before the court by January 12. A 5-member bench of the Appellate Division headed by Chief Justice Md Muzammel Hossain also fixed the day for passing further order on the issue.

The SC directive came after Fida M Kamal, a counsel for Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (Bela), had pointed out that the safety issue was missing in the rules. He said the rules had been formulated in light of Hong Kong International Convention that has not yet come into effect.

He said the rules were framed considering only the interest of the shipbreaking industry and owners, while the Ministry of Industries did not send the Ministry of Law the rules for vetting before issuing the gazette notification.

Examining the rules, the court said it had been stated in the preamble of the rules that the government had framed the regulations as per directives of the court. However, the government should have come up with the rules on its own in order to "reflect what people want".

The bench directed the government to reframe the rules so people's hope is reflected in handling and managing hazardous materials and waste.

It passed the order during the hearing on a government plea on extending a High Court order that permitted conditional import of toxic ships.

The Ministry of Industries on December 12 issued a gazette notification on the rules titled The Ship Breaking and Ship Recycling Rules, 2011 for safe and environmentally sound shipbreaking and recycling in Bangladesh in compliance with an SC order.

Attorney General Mahbubey Alam yesterday placed the gazette notification before the court saying that the government had framed the rules in line with HC directives.

Meanwhile, Industries Secretary SH Masud Siddique as per an earlier SC order appeared before the bench yesterday with a copy of the gazette notification. The court exempted Masud Siddique from further personal appearance before it following his petition.
Advocate Iqbal Kabir Lytton, another lawyer from Bela, told The Daily Star that the toxic ships cannot be imported for breaking till further order, as the HC in October this year restricted import of toxic ships till rules are framed.

Following a writ petition filed by Bela, the High Court at different times since 2006 directed the government to frame rules to free the shipbreaking industry from pollution and ensure safety of workers.

On December 15 last year, this court for the last time asked the government to frame shipbreaking rules in three months in light of 6 existing laws. The laws restrict import of toxic ships until the rules framed.

The laws are:

·         Basel Convention Act, 1989;
·         Bangladesh Environment Protection Act, 1995;
·         Bangladesh Marine and Fisheries Ordinance, 1989;
·         Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006;
·         Bangladesh Territorial Water and Maritime Zone Act, 1974; and
·         Environment Protection Rules, 1997.

Following a petition filed by Bangladesh Ship Breakers' Association, another HC bench headed by Justice AHM Shamsuddin Chowdhury Manik on March 7 this year permitted import of toxic ships for 2 months and directed the government to formulate the rules by that time.

On May 7, the court extended its March 7 order for another two months. The order was also extended on July 21 till October 12.

On October 27, during hearing of a writ petition filed by Bela, the HC said it would not extend the timeframe any further. It also issued some directives on the government to ensure safety of shipbreaking workers.

Source: The Daily Star. 15 December 2011

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