Despite the bad press globally, owners of the ship-breaking yards along the Sitakunda coast continue to ignore environmental regulations.
Ship yard owners rarely get clearance from the Department of Environment which is the next obvious step after getting an approval from the Industries Ministry.
Masud Karim, an environment department official in Chittagong, told bdnews24.com that they write to owners about clearance before they start dismantling ships.
“But in most cases they do not obey the law,” he said. “We are preparing to take action against them.”
From January to November, 190 ships were transported for dismantling in Madam Bibir Haat, Kumira, Bhatiyari, Sonaiccharhi, Jahanabad, Kadamarsul and Banshbarhia at Sitakunda.
According to the Department of Environment, owners have their clearance for just 12.
“In the last ten months we have received only 12 applications for environmental clearance from ship-breaking yard owners,” said one environment official.
“The other ships have not been cleared. The department has information that several of these ships have been dismantled, some completely and some partially.”
The industries ministry provides approval after checking reports by a combined committee formed with representatives of various organisations, Harun-ur-Rashid Khan, an official of the Department of Environment in Chittagong, told bdnews24.com.
Owners of ship-breaking yards do not feel the need for a clearance because a representative of the environment department is present when a ship is inspected, said a member of the Bangladesh Ship-Breakers Association (BSBA).
The industries ministry approves the dismantling based on the combined report, he said.
Another yard owner claimed reforms were made after ‘negative discussions’ about the industry.
Their operations, he claimed, were much ‘safer’ than before because the workers faced ‘less risks’ and hazardous materials were properly managed.
So he says he does not bother for environmental clearance.
Any ships scheduled for dismantling must have clearance under Section 19 (1) of the Hazardous Wastes and Ship Breaking Waste Management Rules, 2011.
Applicants have to disclose any hazardous material, including asbestos, gasohol and lubricant, which may be involved in the dismantling and detail the waste management and recycling processes involved in their disposal.
Overseas media reports recently focussed on the ‘MV Producer’ that was being dismantled at the Janata Steel Corporation’s yard in Bibir Haat.
The owners had not received environmental clearance before they began scrapping the ship.
Despite assurances from owners, Danish media reported that the ship was being scrapped in an ‘unsafe environment’ in violation of local and international laws.
The ship’s toxic materials were putting the workers and the local environment at risk, the reports said.
The Department of Environment stopped the scrapping and put together a seven-member committee to investigate the presence of radioactive materials on the ship on Saturday.
Investigators have been asked to file their report within three working days.
Source: bdnews24.com. 07 November 2016