In late September, news came from
Dhaka, Bangladesh that the State Minister for Environment and Forest, Hasan Mahmud, and the national government were in the midst of finalizing a policy to ensure that the ship-breaking industry would operate without polluting the environment. To prevent the elimination of the ship-building industry, which Mahmud claims will turn into a “market for foreign ironmongers,” the government is hoping to establish a separate zone for this industry. Bangladesh
Ruling Awami League lawmaker and Chief of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour and Employment Ministry, M. Israfil Alam, however, believes that ship-breaking is an extremely hazardous and polluting industry and is demanding its immediate closure. Israfil supported his demands by citing the High Court in
ban on all ship scrapping. Hyderabad, India
“Our High Court gave some directives for the ship breaking yards but the owners seldom comply with those directives. They are making our environment more vulnerable by bringing in abandoned ships loaded with asbestos which is very harmful for public health,” said Israfil, who is entirely correct about the danger of asbestos within the shipbuilding and breaking industry.
Asbestos is a naturally occurring yet carcinogenic mineral long used in shipbuilding. Long term exposure to asbestos is known to cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the lining of the chest and abdomen and the organs contained therein. Asbestos is most dangerous when it is disturbed, causing it to break and crumble, which in turn releases toxic fibers into the air that can be easily inhaled.
If they do not wear the proper protective gear and the industry is not properly regulated, ship-breakers are at a very high risk of breathing asbestos on a daily basis and contracting the oftentimes fatal pleural mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs. However, Minister Mahmud insists that all importers require clearance certificates that the ships do not carry any harmful substances and that the government is “now working on how to dismantle the vessels and ensure safe and hazard free environment at the same time.”
Source: October 12, 2010