Blue Lady owners misled the Court
Glaring documentary evidence was presented in the Supreme Court today that shows how Blue Lady (S S Norway) owners have misled the Court and all the Government agencies. It is becoming clearer that the Blue Lady can be sent back.
The matter Is listed for hearing again tomorrow.
Gopal Subramanium, Additional Solicitor General submitted to the Supreme Court that there is radioactive material on the ship named Blue Lady besides asbestos, PCBs, Ballast Water, Incineration ash, lead acid batteries. Mukul Rohatagi appearing on behalf of Sanjay Mehta, Managing Director, Priya Blue Industries Private Ltd in the Supreme Court argued that Dismantling Plan of the Priya Blue was prepared after the submission of the recommendations of Technical Experts Committee (TEC) on Management of Hazardous Wastes relating to Ship breaking headed by Environment Secretary. The bench of Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice S H Kapadia heard the matter. 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”.
The new documents show that TEC report and GEPIL report cannot be relied upon. Although Tom Haugan, the former Project Manager of the ship has provided information that there are radioactive material at 5500 places in the fire detection system, the document, which Additional Solicitor General produced today, reads as follows: “We could collect 12 nos of such smoke detectors and handed over to the breaker for keeping safely and securely pending their disposal at BARC through AERB.” It further admits, “We could not find any instructions for emergency response related with radioactive material. Also we could find any radioactive warning symbol in any part of the ship except in the ionization-based smoke detectors. In addition to this, the inventory of the hazardous material issued by the Mater of the ship does not mention anything about the radioactive material.”
Counsel for the petitioner, Sanjay Parikh emphasized that prior decontamination of the ship is possible only in the country of export as recommended by the court’s High Power Committee (HPC) on Hazardous Wastes and not when the ship starts sailing. No decontamination is possible in the high seas, all pre-cleaning must be done in the country of import. Since this has not been done, the case Blue Lady therefore, becomes a clear case of dumping of hazardous wastes, which the Supreme Court order dated 14th October 2003 prevented. It was submitted that in the interest of country and public health prior informed consent procedure and pre-cleaning that exists as part of Hazardous Waste Rules, 1989 created under Environment Protection Act 1986 including what should be done if it is a case of illegal traffic like Blue Lady must be complied with.
The bench sough to know whether India was signatory to Basel Convention. It was pointed out that India has ratified Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal and its companion treaties like Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade and Stockholm Convention on POPs. It was 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.
On the issue of Dismantling Plan, it was pointed out that the approval Ministry of Environment and Forests, TEC, Inspection Committee of Gujarat Pollution Control Board, Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) prior to verification of the radioactive substances and Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCBs) is a gravely wrong. Despite the fact that Dr. Virendra Misra, ITRC, Lucknow had put his suggestion that “Presence of radioactive materials should be ascertained well in advance. Though it is mentioned in the report that radioactive material is not available, in my opinion there is possibility of the presence of radioactive materials due to existence of liquid level indicators and smoke detectors on the ship.” But Priya Blue submitted that its consultant “the GEPIL report confirms the absence of radioactive material on board Blue Lady.” It noteworthy that the services of the very same organization, GEPIL (Gujarat Enviro Protection and Infrastructure Ltd), has been engaged by the Gujarat Maritime Board (gmb) for the purpose of “operating and maintaining Common Hazardous waste TSDF on behalf of Gujarat Maritime Board since October 2005”. There is a manifest conflict of interest.
Demanding that the ship must be sent back as suggested by Prof. MGK Menon, “it is a case of environmental racism being practiced by countries like Germany and multinationals like Star Cruise Ltd, the original owner of Blue Lady,” said Madhumitta Dutta of Corporate Accoutability Desk. Prof. Menon is the Chairman of the HPC who wrote to the Chief Justice seeking recall of the ship by the exporting country as per the court order.
It is noteworthy that all ships, which come for dismantling, have radioactive material. No one knows as to how many workers till date have suffered radioactive exposure besides asbestos and PCBs due to shipbreaking. It further vindicates what Dr Vidyut Joshi, former Vice-Chancellor, Bhavnagar University who has co-authored a UNESCO report for "Industrial safety concerns in the ship breaking industry/Alang-India" has said. He said, “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.”
Note: Hazardous Waste Rules defines hazardous waste. Some Basel Hazardous Wastes found on Ships include: 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.