Toxic Trade News / 1 February 2006
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Ship may contain other toxic materials also: eco groups
by Special Correspondent, The Hindu
1 February 2006 (New Delhi) – French aircraft carrier Clemenceau is likely to contain about 700 tonnes of structural material contaminated with the globally banned and cancer-causing chemicals polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) besides asbestos, according to Basel Action Network, Greenpeace, the Corporate Accountability Desk and Ban Asbestos Network of India.

The PCBs are far more difficult and expensive to remove than asbestos, according to a statement issued by these environmental groups. India has neither the facility or capacity for handling the highly toxic PCBs, nor the destruction technology required under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants — a United Nations treaty.

India and France have ratified the treaty but the Indian Government does not have the political will to ensure that such toxins are dealt with without harming workers and the environment, the statement said.

No tests have been conducted till date to measure PCBs arising from ship-breaking at Alang in Gujarat and these are persistent in the environment, and tend to bioaccumulate and biomagnify through the food chain to emerge as POPs. "Even if France's claim that Clemenceau does not have hazardous waste and, therefore, does not fall under the Basel Convention were true, their export of PCBs to India would be a clear violation of the Stockholm Convention,'' according to Ramapati Kumar of Greenpeace.

"The French are lying about the asbestos and using it as smoke-screen to hide the several hundred tonnes of PCBs and other toxic [chemicals] onboard the Clemenceau,'' said Madhumita Dutta of the Corporate Accountability Desk. "Unfortunately, the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee has not shown much intelligence in dealing with this issue and does not seem to have insisted on independent third party inventory of all toxic [chemicals] on board,'' she added.

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