Activists slam India panel's OK to "toxic" ship
3 August 2006 (New Delhi) –
An Indian panel has violated guidelines for ship-breaking laid down by India's Supreme Court by approving the scrapping of a controversial Norwegian cruise liner this week, an environmental alliance said on Thursday.
The panel said the 46,000-metirc ton cruise ship Blue Lady, which environmentalists say contains hundreds of metric tons of asbestos and other toxic materials, could be broken down safely in the western Indian shipyard of Alang in Gujarat state.
"With regards to the illegal beaching which has been allowed, we will file an application to bring to the notice of the court how its orders have been flouted," said Gopala Krishana, coordinator for the NGO Platform on Shipbreaking.
The alliance of non-governmental organizations includes Greenpeace, Ban Asbestos Network and The European Federation for Transport and Environment.
In June, the Supreme Court allowed Blue Lady to enter Indian waters but blocked its dismantling until the court-appointed expert panel gave its report on whether it was safe to scrap the ship in Alang.
The environmental alliance said the panel had found toxic materials like asbestos and cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls on board Blue Lady and, by allowing it to be dismantled in Alang, had gone against Supreme Court guidelines set in 2003.
Those guidelines say the ship should be properly decontaminated by the ship owner prior to breaking in India and local authorities must verify that decontamination has happened.
The panel chairman, Sudipto Ghosh, who is the top bureaucrat in the environment ministry, was not available for comment.
Greenpeace says Indian shipyards like Alang lack new technology to safely handle toxic waste in ships they scrap. The group says Blue Lady contains at least 900 metric tons of asbestos.
A report by Greenpeace in December said thousands of workers in the ship-breaking industry in countries such as India, China and Pakistan may have died over the past two decades due to exposure to toxic waste or in accidents.
"The asbestos epidemic across the globe has led to over 40 countries having banned this killer fiber," the environmental alliance said on Thursday. "Turning a blind eye to such global developments exposes the callousness of the (Indian) ministry of environment.
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