SHIP BREAKING INDUSTRY

ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTER

Alang – The largest ship breaking industry in Asia

As part of an Integrated Coastal Zone Management Plan, it is necessary to review safety and related issues at the Alang and Sosia Ship Breaking Yard (ASSBY). ASSBY is located on the coast of Bhavnagar district and in the Gulf of Cambay, a distance of 56 km south from Bhavnagar city. This place has the best continental shelf available for ship breaking in the whole of Asia. At the same time, it is known for the highest tidal level (10 meters) in the country. The vast expanse of intertidal zone gets exposed during ebb (low) tide which makes it convenient for ship breaking activity, whereas the high tide makes it possible to accommodate big ships. The first ship breaking activity started in 1983 at Alang. Today ASSBY boasts the biggest ship breaking yard in whole of Asia with 182 plots carrying on this activity year round. Last year, ships worth 3.2 million tones were broken in this yard. With the facilitating measures in the central budget, the ship breaking activity has the potential to achieve more tonnage.

THE ISSUES

The Gujarat Ecology Commission has carried out a detailed study of ecological restoration at ASSBY. However, without going into the ecological details of the project, three basic issues can be mentioned: 1) issues causing ecological imbalance at Alang and in nearby areas, 2) issues causing impact on nearby villages and village infrastructure, and 3) issues causing concern during ship breaking. The ship breaking activity itself is manual labour intensive and unorganised. It is necessary to bring advanced technology to this industry so that the rate of accidents can be further reduced. The uproar on the Alang situation in the Western media is uncalled for, as the situation at Alang is within control and not beyond repair. What is required is a sustainable coastal zone management approach.

There are around 24,000 direct workers and some 11,000 to 12,000 workers in allied activities in the ASSBY area. Out of around 35,000 workers, according to one survey, only 0.55% belong to Gujarat. It means that more than 99 percent of the workers are from other states. They are mainly from three states, Orissa, U.P. and Bihar. They are mainly from backward and drought prone regions of those states. This means that this is a migrant labour force. The Interstate Migrant Workman Act will have to be applied here. If this Act is applied, most of the problems of working and living conditions can be solved, because the ISMW Act mentions accommodation, medical facilities and even travelling allowances. Wages are not a problem for these workers, but the working living conditions are hazardous and inhuman.

So far as safety aspects are concerned, no standards are observed either by workers or by plot management. Out of 361 workers, according to the survey, 14 (3.88%) workers reported accidents, 11 workers (3.05%) sustained burns and 14 workers (3.88%) reported injuries. Ten workers (2.77%) wear helmets, only one worker reported having gloves, two workers reported having shoes and three workers reported having welding glasses.

Guidelines / pollution control

Most of the ships that arrive on the Gujarat coast come from the United States where environmental and safety laws prevent ship-breaking, but do not prohibit their export to other countries.

The most that has happened so far is that, in May, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) produced a set of toothless guidelines for the industry and recommended rejection of ships with high levels of pollutants listed the Basel Convention.

While the Basel Convention bans the export of many items which are commonly found on the ships such as asbestos, lead and pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls, the ships themselves are exempt.

Future of Ship breaking industry in India:

THE ship-breaking industry in India is likely to witness hectic activity in the next 10 years with the European Union’s proposed accelerated phase-out of single-hull tankers (20,000 to 30,000 DWT — dead weight tonnage).

According to a recent study, there are more than 2,250 single-hull tankers of 5,000 DWT, or a total of 129.5 million DWT (till January 2004), that will have to be scrapped. This is 25-30 per cent higher than the estimate of peak volume of 2015.

These tankers will be withdrawn by 2010 and 2015 in accordance with the strict time-tables set by the European Commission (EC) and the IMO (International Maritime Organisation). The new regulations include a ban on carrying heavy grades of oil in single-hull tankers.

According to an EU-commissioned study, the ship-breaking industry’s present capacity, in Asia, and particularly India, may still be enough to meet the demand generated by the proposed accelerated phase-out.

The EU Parliament and Council amended Regulation 417/2002 to phase out single-hull tankers, and the IMO followed suit. According to the study, in the past ten years decommissioning of ships has been concentrated in the Indian sub-continent and elsewhere in Asia. Ship-breaking in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and China accounted for more than 90 per cent of the of all vessels scrapped. Of all the vessels scrapped from 1994 to 2003, less than 2 per cent were broken in Europe, with Turkey accounting for more than 85 per cent of this.

For instance, 4,658 ships were scrapped between 1994 and 2003. Of this 2,638 were scrapped in India, followed by Bangladesh (603), China (523) and Turkey (125). In other words, India accounted for around 60 per cent of the global ship-scrapping, and whole of Asia 75 per cent.

On an average, oil tankers accounted for 40 per cent of the volumes scrapped during 1993-2004. Some 250 Indian companies are involved in ship-scrapping, mostly along the Gujarat coast.

The Indian Government is unable to resist ship breaking activity because Industry which also brings in 2.5 million tons of steel representing about ten per cent of India‘s overall steel production.

 

Kakinada Ship Breaking industry

Undeterred by the grave environmental implications and rejection of a similar project by the fishing community and the Environment Department, moves are on to set up a hazardous ship-breaking yard on the Uppala-Vakalapudi stretch close to the Coringa wildlife sanctuary near Kakinada.

Sources in the department say an industrial group, carrying on the ship- breaking activity clandestinely in Kakinada, is lobbying for clearance of the project, which envisages handling of 300 ships every year. The previous project at Vodarevu by Andhra Sea Ports in 2001 came a cropper a year later, with the department rejecting it under the provisions of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification.

HC directive
This was after the High Court directed the authorities to take effective steps to prevent ship-breaking activity till further orders. Listing hazards, the petitioner had challenged the consent for establishment (CFE) issued by the AP Pollution Control Board, after rejecting it earlier, without clearance from the Shore Area Development Authority (SADA).

Like now, the industry then too had lobbied for the project, citing “employment potential and the revenue to the State,” oblivious to the effects on the environment and the marine ecosystem. The SADA rejected the proposal.

Lobbying is on again to get clearance, now on the technical ground that ship-breaking requires waterfront and foreshore facilities. Hence it should be considered under “permissible” and not “prohibited” activities of the CRZ notification, the argument goes. Environmentalists emphasize that the State should not go by such technicalities.

Impact on Coringa Sanctuary

 

Coringa Sanctuary is located near Kakinada port in East Godavari District along Bay of Bengal. It is at a distance of 20-km from Kakinada. There would be impact of pollution from the ship breaking industry on the flora and fauna of the sanctuary.

 

It is renowned for reptiles and the most famous ones are the salt-water crocodiles. The total area of sanctuary is part of delta of the river Godavari. It covers a total area of 235.70-sq-km and forms a part of the Godavari mangroves. It was declared as a sanctuary in July 1978 to conserve the mangrove vegetation of the estuary.

Flora :

Mangroves are a group of salt tolerant plant species, which occur in the tropical and subtropical initial estuary regions. Mangroves constitute a dynamic ecosystem with a complex association of both floral and faunal species of terrestrial and aquatic systems and the vegetation in this forest is of evergreen type.

Mangroves provide different kind of niches for a variety of animal populations required. The crowns of trees including trunk, branches, leaves, flowers and fruits provide niches essentially, to terrestrial fauna like birds, mammals and insects. The Soil Surface of mangroves provides niche for mudskippers, crabs and molluscs. The Sanctuary has a unique distinction of having an 18-km long sand spit in the North Eastern side, where the species of olive Ridley sea turtle (endangered species) nests during January-March of every year.

Fauna :

The habitat is suitable for the salt-water crocodiles. The water in the forest supports a variety of animals. One can find animals like the Fishing Cats, Otters, Jackals, Estuarine Crocodiles, Sea Turtles and birds like Sea gulls, Pelicans, Storks, Herons, Snipes, Ducks and Flamingos. The main species of mangrove forest are Rhizophora, Avincinia, Sonneratia Aegiceros.

 

Let us not be part of sin in the name of development and people by accepting the ship breaking activity for the Northern developed countries.

 

YEAR

No. of Ships

LDT

1982-83

5

24716

1983-84

51

259387

1984-85

42

228237

1985-86

84

516602

1986-87

61

395139

1987-88

38

244776

1988-89

48

253991

1989-90

82

451243

1990-91

86

577124

1991-92

104

563568

1992-93

137

942601

1993-94

175

1256077

1994-95

301

2173249

1995-96

183

1252809

1996-97

348

2635830

1997-98

347

2452019

1998-99

361

3037882

1999-00

296

2752414

2000-01

295

1934825

2001-02

333

2727223

2002-03

300

2424522

2003-04

294

1986121

2004-05 UP TO JULY-04

86

402735

TOTAL

4057

29673528

 

 

 

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