Toxic Trade News / 18 February 2006
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'Toxic' ship gone, SC turns to Alang
by The Times of India (India)
18 February 2006 (New Delhi) – With French warship Clemenceau's recall cooling off the heat over its planned scrapping in Gujarat, the Supreme Court on Friday trained its eyes on the adequacy of infrastructure and safety measures in Alang's ship-breaking industry.

"We will not allow this sprawling business to go to other countries nor would we allow this to become an ecological hazard," a Bench comprising Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice S H Kapadia said while asking the Centre to set upa panel comprising retired naval officers with expertise in ship-breaking.

"First and foremost is to find out the infrastructure of the ship-breaking industry at Alang and whether it is operating in a manner capable of avoiding environmental hazard," the Bench said asking the techincal expert panel to find out in six weeks whether facilities at Alang are adequate to handle the hazardous content of ships towed there for scrapping.

Its virtual lack of faith in the expertise of the SC Monitoring Committee, expressed during the peak of the Clemenceau controversy, became more evident as it refused to assign any role to it in the job entrusted to the panel comprising former technical experts from Navy.

India, a participant to Basel Convention on hazardous waste, had a long-standing view to treat all ships meant for scrapping as hazardous.

But Additional solicitor general Gopal Subramaniam said that the flourishing ship-breaking industry at Alang could not be allowed to die and the government's first priority is to conduct a scientific assessment of facilities at Alang.

He also got the nod of the Bench for codifying the guidelines laid down by the SC from time to time on the hazardous waste issue.

However, the Bench did not take any immediate note of advocate S Muralidhar's contention that Clemenceau-type controversies keep happening from time to time as India is presented with a fait acompli.

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