Blue Lady violates Environmental Laws & National Policy on Hazardous Wastes
Toxic chemicals laden 10 Dollar ship poses threat to workers and villagers
Terror elements suspected in the hazardous waste trade
The Parliamentary Committee dealing with Blue Lady (SS Norway) has taken note of huge amounts of Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCBs) besides all the Supreme Court Committees but so far no “Inventory of PCB-Containing Equipment” has been made available either to the court or to the Parliamentary panel. The 315-metre long and 46,000-tonne, 11-storey Blue Lady left the port of Malaysia for Dubai for 'repairs' in May 2006 and later sailed towards Alang and anchored off Alang on humanitarian grounds due to monsoons in June 2006.
PCB is one of the Persistent Organic Pollutant (POPs) that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of living organisms and are toxic to humans and wildlife. POPs circulates globally and can cause damage wherever they travel. The case of toxic chemicals laden Blue Lady was listed for hearing today in the Supreme Court. The Court directed that the issue with regard to ship breaking, Blue Lady and Waste Oil will be heard on 30 August. The Gujarat Pollution Control Board was supposed to file an affidavit in the court with regard to the illegal sale of PCB containing oil.
The entry of Blue Lady in Indian territorial waters and continued presence since June 2006 is in violation of Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade and Stockholm Convention on POPs. India is signatory to these international environmental laws wherein disposal and movement of PCBs have been dealt with.
Even as it is becoming clearer that the Blue Lady (SS Norway, SS France) can be sent back, the Ministry is worked hand in glove the ship-breakers to let the ship contaminate the Indian shores and destroy the livelihood of the villagers.
In November, 2006 Sanjay Mehta, Priya Blue Industries Private Ltd based in Sosiya Ship-breaking yard, Bhavnagar, Gujarat filed an application in the court seeking permission for dismantling of vessel Blue Lady ship in the aftermath of the anchoring permission granted to Rajeev Reniwal, Hariyana Ship Demolitions Pvt Ltd, Sosiya Ship-breaking yard, Bhavnagar, Gujarat on humanitarian grounds in June 2006. Hariyana Ship Demolitions Pvt Ltd had bought the ship Bridgend Shipping Ltd, Monorovia, Liberia. Bridgend Shipping Ltd had bought SS Norway from Norwegian Cruise Line Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Star Cruise Lines Ltd in January 2006 at the price of 10 Dollars. It was at this stage that the ship was once again renamed SS Blue Lady.
The ship in question is in illegal traffic. There is documentary proof that such ships are required to clearance from the Ministry of Defence, which has not been done in the case besides certification for prior decontamination of the ship in the country of export. It is a case of collusion of government agencies and connivance of enforcement authorities.
Some 30, 000 villagers and 12 village councils (local governments called panchayats) of Bhavnagar district of Gujarat have filed the case through their heads of village councils (Sarpanch) in the Supreme Court. These villages are in the vicinity of Alang ship-breaking yard. They have sought directions asking the court to "direct that the ship named "Blue Lady" (SS Norway) be not allowed to be dismantled at the Alang Ship-breaking yard." The villagers have argued that "The dismantling of the ship would have hazardous effect on the residents of the villages near the Alang ship breaking yard as the ship contains large amount of asbestos which, when exposed is hazardous to the health of the residents living in the twelve villages."
They have submitted that Rule 12 (i) of the Hazardous Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules under the Environment Protection Act, 1986 bans import of asbestos. As per Schedule 8 Serial No. 15 describes waste asbestos (dust and fibres) as hazardous wastes prohibited for import and export. Bhagvatsinh Haluba Gohil, head, village council (Sarpanch), Village Sosiya, Tehsil Talaja, and District Bhanvnagar whom we have met in the first week of April in his village opined that besides the danger of asbestos exposure the villagers face threat of loss of livelihood because of the contamination of the aquatic life in the sea.
Stockholm Convention, a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from POPs. In implementing the Convention, Governments are supposed to take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment. The Convention in its Annex A and Article 6, requires Parties like India to identify, label and remove from use equipment containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and to dispose of the waste PCB-containing materials in an environmentally sound manner. This inventory form assists in identification of owners and locations of potentially PCB-containing equipment and wastes; identification and quantification of potentially PCB-containing equipment such as transformers, capacitors, vacuum pumps, lamp ballast, and electrical cables; and Identification and quantification of waste PCBs or PCB-contaminated sites.
As per the UNEP guide to the management of PCB, “Transportation of PCBs is one of the highest risk areas for potential spills or leaks. Most problems occur during loading or unloading of the vehicle. Loading areas should have adequate spill response materials and spill prevention measures should be taken and spill control and clean-up materials should be available, should they be needed. Any subsequent movement of the contaminated wastes shall be made in strict accordance with the provisions of the Basel Convention on hazardous waste movements.”
“It should be remembered that all transportation of hazardous wastes containing PCBs are covered by the Basel Convention, to which reference should be made for further guidance on the shipping of such wastes.”
Hazardous Wastes pertaining to ship breaking is highly toxic in nature. The hazardous wastes are thus required to be dealt with only with adequate and proper control and handling and only traded in accordance with international law. In developing countries, these matters are of particular importance from an environmental and policy standpoint to avoid global dumping on developing countries to avoid the high costs of proper careful hazardous waste management in developed countries. These and other allied problems gave birth to Basel. Both the Basel Convention and the Basel Ban Amendment applies to End-of-Life ships that contain hazardous materials. As per consensus decisions passed by the Parties to the Convention, a ship can be a ship and a waste at the same time and it could be a hazardous waste.
The key objectives of the Basel Convention are: to minimize the generation of hazardous wastes in terms of quantity and hazardousness; to dispose of them in the country in which they were generated, and to reduce the transboundary movement of hazardous wastes. (Article 4, para 2) The key objective of the Basel Ban Amendment is to: Prohibit the export of hazardous waste from member countries of the European Union (EU), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and Liechtenstein to any other countries for any reason.
The Rotterdam Convention creates legally binding obligations for the implementation of the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure. It covers pesticides and industrial chemicals that have been banned or severely restricted for health or environmental reasons by Parties and which have been notified by Parties for inclusion in the PIC procedure. There are 39 chemicals including PCBs listed in Annex III of the Convention and subject to the PIC procedure, including 24 pesticides, 4 severely hazardous pesticide formulations and 11 industrial chemicals. The import decisions are circulated and exporting country Parties are obligated under the Convention to take appropriate measure to ensure that exporters within its jurisdiction comply with the decisions.
National Policy on Hazardous Wastes admits, “Lack of laboratory facilities for analysis of trace organics such as PCBs could either result in holding up of supplies for long periods of time merely on grounds of suspicion or lead to illegal imports of waste oil under the garb of used oil.” Safe Ship-breaking activity is the responsibility of all the parties involved ranging from ship owner, ship exporter to ship importer and the concerned countries as per Basel Convention. Ship owners who own the ship for decades have benefited from the ship and they cannot and should not be allowed to escape from their responsibility of assuming decontamination cost. There are some efforts underway to eliminate the manifest responsibility of ship owners. This cannot be allowed without jeopardizing globally accepted principles of producer responsibility and the protection of environmental and occupational health workers and concerned communities. In the case of Blue Lady the exporting country has failed to comply with the Basel Convention but it has turned a blind to the act of illegal traffic committed by Norwegian Cruise Line Ltd. It did not inform the Indian authorities that there is radioactive material on the ship.
Note: Basel Convention defines Waste as “….substances or objects which are disposed of or are intended to be disposed of or are required to be disposed* of by the provisions of national law.” Disposal is defined both as as “recycling” or “final disposal” destinations listed in Annex IV. The Convention defines hazardous waste as those, which are present in Annex I and exhibit a hazardous characteristic found in Annex III, or which are listed in Annex VIII. Some Basel Hazardous Wastes (Annex VIII) Found on Ships & type of Basel Waste and how they are found in Ships Waste mineral oils, Oil sludge, Hydraulic systems, heavy fuel oil, lube oil, Waste oils/water mixtures and emulsions Ballast water, Waste containing PCBs, PCTs, PCNs, PBBs, Light fitting capacitors, in paints, etc, Waste from production, formulation and use of inks, paints, lacquers, varnish etc, All over as coatings Wastes containing mercury or mercury compounds, Fluorescent light fittings, Lead Acid Batteries, Batteries, Waste Asbestos, Heat insulation, fire retardant in structural material