22 July 2012

State unhappy with SC’s judgment on hazardous wastes, fears business will be hit:

The Supreme Court’s judgment on Friday on hazardous wastes and its likely impacts on shipbreaking seem to have unnerved the highest echelons of the Gujarat government. Chief Secretary A K Joti publicly pleaded with his counterpart in the Environment Ministry that “a level playing field must be ensured” or else all ships heading for Alang Ship Recycling Yard would now move to “Bangladesh, China or Karachi”.

Joti, who was delivering a special address at a pre-event seminar for Vibrant Gujarat, 2013, at Gandhinagar’s Mahatma Mandir, first finished his prepared speech and began an extempore directed at his civil services batch-mate Tishyarakshit Chatterjee, currently Secretary of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.

Joti began by telling the audience that he had apprised Chatterjee about Friday’s judgment before the seminar began at 10 am. (The SC had directed the Indian government to uphold the “Basel Convention on the control of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal”).

Turning towards Chatterjee, Joti went on saying that agencies such as “the Gujarat Maritime Board have spent crores of rupees to comply with environmental standards at Alang to ensure trade and employment opportunities for Indian citizens”.

Asia’s largest ship-recycling yard would lose its business, he continued, and end-of-life ships would all go to neighbouring countries’ yards “if China and Bangladesh can violate (international) conventions with impunity. This type of problem is very real. We are given all the lectures.”

“Our industry started way back in the 1980s. Now, they (the ships) are all going to Bangladesh. Karachi is also coming up as a new shipbreaking yard. It is just a few nautical miles from here,” he lamented.

In its judgment, the SC had said, “We expect and reiterate that the directions contained in the Basel Convention have to be strictly followed by all the concerned players, before a vessel is allowed to enter Indian territorial waters and beach at any of the beaching facilities in any part of the Indian coast-line.”

The petition it was hearing was originally filed in 1995, but it has been revived through additional affidavits and related petitions numerous times, most recently by a Delhi-based environment activist, Gopal Krishna of Toxics Watch Alliance, who demanded the MV Oriental N, formerly known as Exxon Valdez, not be allowed to enter India for dismantling.

Replying to Joti, Chatterjee said, “The Basel Convention facilitates business. Under Basel, we can now send our wastes from here. There is a hot proposal of sending waste abroad.” He, however, said the government “has to ask the SC how to implement the convention”.

Source: The Indian Express. 8 July 2012

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