Toxic Trade News / 12 February 2006
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Supreme Court to decide on Clemenceau fate today
by Express News Service (India)
12 February 2006 (New Delhi) – The verdict on the decommmissioned aircraft carrier, the Clemenceau, will be out on Monday, but with the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee (SCMC) submitting two differing reports on the ship, the decision is not likely to be easy.

Also, despite repeated directions, the Court still does not have an inventory from the French government on how much asbestos is present on board and where.

According to preliminary papers filed by the French government, there is already more asbestos on board than it had initially claimed. The French told the SCMC that 78 tonnes of asbestos were taken off the ship before it sailed from France for the Alang shipbreaking yard. Going by the French estimates, if there are 220 tonnes on board, it still leaves 142 tonnes to be decontaminated in India. This is almost double of what they claimed till just a few days ago. Also, the evidence the French submitted about the disposal of 30 tonnes out of this 78 tonnes has not convinced the SCMC.

This is a far cry from where it all began. In 2004, the French government claimed that it would decontaminate the ship of 98 per cent of the 220 tonnes of asbestos on board. In April 2005, they lowered that initial estimate to say that the Clemenceau had only 160 tonnes on board as, among other things, the chimney did not have the 60 tonnes they had estimated earlier.

This year in January, the French claimed that they had removed 110 tonnes out of the 160 tonnes. With the exact numbers eluding the decision-makers, the lawyers for the petition will be asking how the estimates could differ to this extent.

Another question they will want to know the answer to is where is the inventory, required by the Indian Hazardous Waste Rules. Again, according to the Basel Convention on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes, ships that are to be dismantled must have a list of materials they contain; oil and gas-free certifications and, usually, a plan indicating where things are.

Activists have been trying to stop the Clemenceau ever since it set sail from Toulon, France, last December. Greenpeace, the Corporate Accountability Desk and the Basel Action Network are pressing to have the ship returned to France for a clean-up before it is sent to Alang.

Going by other ships of the same age and type as the Clemenceau, activist groups have estimated that there are at least 500-600 tonnes of asbestos on board the ship.

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