While 4 ejolt reports are in the pipeline for publication in the coming two months, our work does not end with the publication of a report. We gave 15 copies of the EJOLT report containing the results of Federico Demaria’s research on the shipbreaking yards of Alang to the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, a Brussels-based coalition of human rights, labour rights and environmental organisations working on the shipbreaking issue. The Platform is currently involved in the process of responding to the European Commission proposal on ship recycling, published in March 2012. They’ve been meeting with representatives from the European Parliament, the European Council (Danish presidency) and the Economic and Social Committee. Ingvild Jenssen, Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform: ‘the EJOLT report is proving very useful in that it sheds light on the situation in India.’
Meanwhile, Indian activist are doing their part of the struggle for environmental justice in the case of shipbreaking. According to the ToxicsWatch Alliance, 5924 end-of-life ships have been beached for dismantling in Alang. There are no data on the amount of hazardous wastes that has been dumped but many ships, like the ‘Oriental Nicety’, contain a lot of toxics. ToxicsWatch filed a Writ Petition (Civil) at the Supreme Court demanding that no end-of-life ship should be allowed without prior decontamination in the country of export as the same court ordered on October 14, 2003. Since May 3, the Supreme Court is handling the case.
And it’s not just dangers from toxics that the workers face. On May 2, a worker on the ship-breaking yard at Chittagong died when a heavy door crushed him. In the last 44 months, at least 38 workers died at ship breaking yards. It should be clear that those who send the ships to these yards have some responsibility in all this. Only 1% of all ships are dismantled in Europe, 2% in the US but 44% are dismantled in India and 17% in Bangladesh. While 90% of international trade goes through ships, it is obvious who is bearing the heavy cost at the end of the lifecycle. This environmental justice needs to be addressed by implementing two interconnected steps:
1) It is technically feasible to have a proper if more expensive dismantling operation (as in Europe). There are in fact many guidelines (Basel Convention, 2002; IMO, 2003; ILO 2004). They are simply not implemented. Action through the Indian Supreme Court to implement them has to be supported.
2) Ship owners could pay a deposit (or guarantee) throughout the ship life to be spent for proper dismantling, established as a requirement for allowing entrance at any harbour. This could allow investments to take the activity off the beach because dry docks operations potentially offer better labour and environmental standards.
EJOLT is planning further steps to use the resources we developped in working towards these goals. As soon as we have new developments we will keep you updated.