Toxic Trade News / 16 February 2006
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France orders Clemenceau back to home waters
by The Times of India (India)
16 February 2006 (Paris/New Delhi) – Just ahead of his visit to India, French president Jacques Chirac ordered the controversial asbestos-containing ship Le Clemenceau back to home waters after France’s highest court blocked the vessel’s transfer to the ship-breaking yard at Alang in Gujarat.

"Given the situation, the president of the republic has decided to repatriate the ship to France," Chirac’s office said in a statement.

Chirac arrives here for a day on Monday. The visit has been given a high billing, particularly as it precedes US president George Bush’s arrival in India by just a week. Both sides are, therefore, keen not to cloud the atmosphere.

Chirac will come here from Thailand and return to France without a stopover in Pakistan. Chirac’s visit had been somewhat shadowed by the battle over Le Clemenceau, whose arrival in India has been vigorously opposed by interest groups like Greenpeace.

The French court has also ordered a counter assessment of the exact amount of asbestos inside the decommissioned aircraft carrier.

Chirac said he hoped European Union would consider strengthening Europe’s capacity to dispose of pollutants, and that leaders worldwide would accelerate efforts to improve international rules about waste disposal.

French PM Dominique de Villepin’s office said, "The government will now examine ways of reforming France’s policy on exporting waste materials."

Greenpeace, which has been fighting a noisy battle here to keep the ship out of Alang unless the French decontaminate it first, was jubilant.

For the ship-breakers at Alang, already battling a slump in work, it’s bad news they fear could sound the death knell for this industry.

"It’s a big blow to the industry," said Girish Luthra, chairman of Gujarat Enviro Protection and Infrastructure, whose company was due to remove the toxic material from the vessel.

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