Toxic Trade News / 6 January 2006
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'Allowing 'Clemenceau' would violate Basel Convention'
by Outlook India

6 January 2006 (Mumbai) – The French warship 'Clemenceau' carrying asbestos should not be allowed in Indian waters as it would violate the Basel International treaty on hazarduous wastes, the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee (SCMC) on hazardous wastes said here today.

The Committee also accused France of violating the Basel Convention by sending the asbestos-laden ship to be scrapped in a shipbreaking yard in Gujarat.

"India would be a party to violation of the Basel Convention on movement of hazardous wastes if it allows the ship anywhere near the country's exclusive economic zone," SCMC chairman G Thyagarajan told reporters after a meeting of the committee here.

He said the committee would take two weeks more to convey to the Supreme Court whether to allow the ship.

The estimate on asbestos on board the aircraft carrier, on way to the Alang ship breaking yard in Gujarat, varies from 50 to 500 tonnes and the information available on the ship and its cargo was "incomplete and unhelpful", he said.

In view of information from media and other sources, it would not be proper to welcome the ship in India as the vessel of its size and reported hazardous cargo on board might cause immense ecological damage, Thyagarajan said.

"People have not been transparant in disclosure of information. It is not desirable to let the ship enter India's waters," he said.

"The country which has sent the ship to India is not observing the Basel Convention on movement of hazardous waste," the SCMC Chairman observed. The ship is reported to have left Toulon harbour in France few days back.

"A lot more correct information should reach us. We need authentic information on guarantee, which should not be less than the price of the ship. Till then, the ship should not come anywhere near Indian waters," Thyagarajan said. "We are told that the ship has been purchased for Rs 40 crore. Why spend Rs 40 crore to buy foreign debris and waste our valuable foreign exchange to bury another country's junk?" the SCMC chairman asked.

Asserting the committee has not received any directions from any quarters, Thyagarajan said the committee was "taking the decision on the basis of mandate from the Supreme Court".

He said India should declare no-import/export policy on hazardous wastes by June five this year which is the Environment Day.

Asked about the willingness of Alang ship breaking yard authorities in Gujarat to allow the ship's entry, Thyagarajan said "If a ship with hundred thousand cobras comes to India, will you accept it just because Indians are good at catching snakes?"

He said the government should consider whether it was at all necessary for India to get into ship breaking activity. "Why not transform the Alang ship breaking yard into a ship building yard?"

The SCMC Chairman said any person or any country wishing to supply information on the ship and asbestos on board should do so within 15 days to the committee after which it would submit its recommendations to the Supreme Court.

Before its meeting today, two representatives of Technopure, the company assigned to decontaminate and scrap the ship, made a presentation before the SCMC on various aspects of the French ship, including quantity of asbestos on board.

Technopure was assigned the job by a company called Ship Decommissioned Industry Corporation (SDIC) which in turn had been mandated by the French government to carry out decontamination and scrapping of the ship. Meanwhile, toxic campaigner of eco watchdog Greenpeace, Ramapati Kumar told reporters that the French government was "misleading" Indian authorities on the quantity of asbestos on board the aircraft carrier.

"We learnt that the ship would be coming to India within two months, going by its normal speed of four nautical miles per hour. But latest reports indicate that the speed is now increased to six nautical miles per hour and as a result, the carrier may arrive earlier," he said.

When contacted by PTI, an official of the French embassy in Delhi declined to comment.

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