Toxic Trade News / 2 January 2006
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Efforts on to block Clemenceau's arrival
Authorities in Gujarat seem to be finally responding to protests against Clemenceau.
2 January 2006 (New Delhi, India) – The decommissioned French aircraft carrier is on its way to Gujarat, but there is a controversy over how much asbestos the ship contains.

"We'll make sure that all the asbestos is decontaminated," said H K Dass, CEO, Gujarat Maritime Board.

"We're getting support from the ship company and pollution board, so all regulations will be followed to make sure that there is no problem, no radiation leaks," Dass added.

Conflicting claims

The French government says 115 tonnes of asbestos has been removed from the vassal.

But Technopure, one of the companies that cleaned the ship, says there is at least 500 tonnes of asbestos left on it. The figure is way too high for Indian authorities to allow the ship to enter its shores.

NDTV has now learnt that Gujarat authorities may turn away the ship if it contains more than 25 tonnes of asbestos. But it's not clear who is going to ascertain how much of the carcinogenic substance there is.

The deal has been far from transparent. Environmentalists have been fighting a battle for over an year to establish the exact amount of asbestos on board the Clemenceau.

Repeated assurances

Despite repeated assurances by the French government, even naval officials say cleaning up Clemenceau in Europe was close to impossible.

"Nobody in Europe or France wanted to do this. Even though we wanted to meet the European conventions, we wanted it to be transparent. Therefore, we sent it to India," said CF Guy Dabas, naval officer.

Though the French courts accepted the government version, activists fighting for transparency have appealed against the order.

In Gujarat too, the picture's far from clear. The company appointed by the government to assess the amount of asbestos on board the Clemenceau is the same that is expected to clean up the ship once it arrives here.

Meanwhile, a Supreme Court monitoring committee will meet on Friday to decide what to do with the controversial aircraft carrier.

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