EJOLT Report 1: Industrial waste conflicts around the world. Case studies from India and Bulgaria: shipbreaking and incineration.
How struggles for environmental justice contribute to the environmental sustainability of the economy
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Rich societies use large amounts of resources. Conflicts of resource extraction and waste disposal, such as the conflict over the excessive production of carbon dioxide, arise as a consequence of this. Rich societies generate large quantities of all kinds of waste, facing rising management costs and awakening opposition to waste treatment and disposal sites, such as incinerators and landfills. This is also the background of a rapidly changing and lucrative trade, global in nature, in which waste flows towards developing countries or poorer areas of developed countries. This report, through in-depth case studies from India and Bulgaria, aims to link the increased social metabolism (energy and material flows) of the economy to waste disposal conflicts. The first case study is about shipbreaking (the dismantling of obsolete ocean-going ships) in Alang-Sosiya (India), an example of how the North dumps toxic waste in the South. The second case study is about a failed attempt to build an hazardous waste incinerator in Radnevo (Bulgaria). Waste disposal conflicts often arise not because of externalities but due to successful cases of cost shifting, or else, capital accumulation by contamination. As a consequence, ecological distribution conflicts emerge as valuation conflict where actors deploy different valuation languages to affirm their right to use a safe environment, from which their health and livelihood often depends upon. Key lessons and mutual learning from both cases is then discussed paying particular attention to the political strategies which can be adopted in environmental conflicts, including grass roots mobilization, cases in the Courts, popular epidemiology, national and international alliances.
Key words: waste disposal conflicts, environmental justice, accumulation by contamination, Lawrence Summers’ principle.
Authors: Federico Demaria, Evgenia Tasheva and Ivaylo Hlebarov