Ministry of Environment Facilitates Dumping of Hazardous Wastes
Subramanium prayed that the recommendations of TEC may be accepted as a procedure henceforth applicable for ship-breaking. This committee came into being as result of an order of R K Vaish, Joint Secretary, Union Ministry of Environment and Forests issued an order dated 24th March, 2006 for the "Constitution of a Committee of Technical Experts with respect to the directions of this Hon'ble Court dated 17.2.2006 in the matter of W.P. (C) No. 657 of 1995 on Management of Hazardous Wastes". Secretary, Union Ministry of Environment and Forests was made the Chairman of the Committee and the Chairman, Central Pollution Control Board, Union Ministry of Environment and Forests was made its Member Convenor.
Counsel for the petitioner, Sanjay Parikh, pointed out that the recommendations of the TEC are not in compliance with the essential conditions, which were part of Supreme Court order of 14th October, 2003. The recommendations of the TEC does not mention anything about prior decontamination in the country of export, which were recommended by the High Power Committee (HPC) with Prof. MGK Menon as its Chairman. This Committee was constituted to examine all matters in depth relating to hazardous waste. by apex court's order dated13th October, 1997. This Committee had fourteen Terms of Reference (TOR) and the 14th TOR was "Decontamination of ships before they are exported to India for breaking." Any ship that comes to India without prior decontamination is a clear case of dumping of hazardous wastes, which is impermissible under international law as well as the directions of the court. He stressed on the fact that India being a party to Basel Convention on transboundary movement of hazardous wastes and their disposal must be comply with its provisions.
The counsel also pointed out that Prior Informed Consent procedure is a part of global environmental jurisprudence where a developing country is entitled to know what material is being sent by the developed country and whether for environment and other concerns is ready to accept it. The ship should be decontaminated and the importing country should know the amount of hazardous wastes in advance before the ship is allowed to sail from the exporting country. A ship cannot enter the Indian territorial waters for dismantling till verification as per the records already done. If on verification of the documents, the country finds it that it is not a correct declaration and the amount of waste is much more than is declared it becomes a case of illegal traffic and the ship is liable to be go back to the exporting country.
The court has reserved its orders on the general recommendations of the ship breaking and the specific issue of Blue Lady will be heard again on 5 September, 2007. The hazardous wastes management matter is before the apex court since 1995.
Dr Vidyut Joshi, former Vice-Chancellor, Bhavnagar University who has co-authored "Industrial safety concerns in the ship breaking industry / Alang-India", a report for UNESCO says, "GMB manages ports of Gujarat, which is its primary task. Ship-breaking requires industrial management, which GMB does not have. Ship-breaking is not a port activity and Maritime Board officials are trained not meant for such industrial activity ship-breaking. If GMB should have a role it must be restructured for the same and there should be a separate Alang Authority."
It is becoming clearer that the Blue Lady can be sent back. In November, 2006 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 Hariyana Ship Demolitions Pvt Ltd on humanitarian grounds. The ship in question needs to be decontaminated by its original owner, Star Cruise Ltd as per the Supreme Court orders and the international laws.