Bangalore: India will not allow building new ship-breaking yards and restrict infrastructure development along its coast following pressure from the Supreme Court and environmental groups for ecologically sound practices.
Environmental outfits such as Greenpeace have been campaigning against practices adopted at the Alang ship recycling yard in Gujarat.
“The decision on prohibiting new ship-breaking yards might be a small step taken on account of the environment, given the complete lack of implementation regimes in India to ensure clean ship-breaking,” said Sanjiv Gopal, campaign manager, oceans, at Greenpeace India.
A file photo of workers at Alang. Environmental groups have been campaigning against practices adopted at the yard (Photo by: Shailendra Yashwant/Greenpeace)
Ship-breakers, however, are not happy with the development. “When the Supreme Court has allowed ship-breaking activity, subject to certain guidelines, why should the ministry of environment and forests impose restrictions on this?” asked Pravin Nagarsheth, president of industry body Iron Steel Scrap and Ship Breakers Association of India.
Greenpeace said it is not opposed to ship-breaking by itself. “We favour clean ship-breaking practices and want this activity to be subjected to a global regulatory system and not just to unilateral measures by individual countries or shipowners,” Gopal said.
The government’s has outlined it plan in the draft coastal management zone (CMZ) notification published in the gazette on 1 May by the ministry of environment and forests.
“The draft CMZ notification imposes restrictions on the development of infrastructure along the country’s coast,” clarified D.T. Joseph, who was India’s shipping secretary between June 2003 and December 2005.
This plan is aimed at conserving and improving the management of coastal resources, protecting coastal stretches from the risk of inundation from extreme weather and geological events, and strengthening the livelihood security of coastal populations.
After it becomes law, CMZ notification will supersede the coastal regulation zone notification of February 1991, which imposed restrictions on industrialization on specific coastal stretches.
Meanwhile, global maritime regulator International Maritime Organization, or IMO, is working on a code for the ship recycling industry.
After the code comes into force by September 2009, the global shipping industry would have to send their ships to India for breaking, Nagarsheth of ship breakers association claimed.
“This is because, qualitatively, we will be a much better recycler of ships than our biggest rival Bangladesh if the Supreme Court guidelines are implemented fully,” he said.
From being the world’s top ship-breaker some 10 years ago, the Alang yard has lost ground to Bangladesh due to higher taxes and tighter regulatory controls in India.
These two countries account for about 90% of the ships that are dismantled after serving out their economical life.