Toxic Trade News / 16 February 2006
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Bowing to environmentalists, France recalls Clemenceau back from Indian Ocean
by M Rama Rao, Asian Tribune
16 February 2006 (New Delhi) – To the glee of Indian environmentalists and to the relief of Indian government, curtains have come down on planned transfer of decommissioned French warship Clemenceau for ship breaking.

France's highest court, the State Council, ordered 'suspension' of the asbestos-lined vessel. The fast track ruling comes ahead of French President's visit to India. President Chirac has ordered the recall of the ship.

Clemenceau has been in the eye of a raging legal battle in India and France. Before it sailed through the Suez Canal, it was an embarrassment to the Egyptian government too.

For the past several weeks, the vessel has been waiting in the Indian Ocean, for a green signal from New Delhi even as the Supreme Court appointed expert panel was brainstorming the issue. The committee was sharply divided while France has offered to take back the 'objectionable toxic material if any after the ship was broken at the Alang ship breaking yard on the west coast of India.

Workers at Alang in Gujarat coast were also up in arms against handling Clemenceau.

It is not the first time India came face to face with toxic waste question. There have been several cases in recent years. Nearly 110 tonnes of asbestos and some 20 tonnes of cancer-causing Polychlorinated biphenyls were dumped from France in the past two years while Australia and Britain sent in some 200 tonnes of hospital waste. Twenty tonnes of (PCBs) were exported by France in 2003-04.

The Indian apex court was to take a final view on the Clemenceau issue later this week. It has banned protests and media comments on the subject in the meanwhile, warning that any violation of the ban would be dealt with strictly.

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