Beaching of end-of-life vessels in Alang has stirred serious concerns from Indian NGOs following a visit to the city’s shipbreaking yards by government representatives from France, Germany and Belgium, as well as the European Commission, in late April.
Indian NGOs are concerned about the negative environmental impact of dismantling end-of-life vessels in the intertidal zone where large amounts of debris, including toxic paint chips, are released, accumulate in the environment and are washed out by the tide. Moreover, the secondary cutting areas, which have been concreted in some of the beaching yards, show cracks in the surface, which raises doubts as to whether they can qualify as impermeable floors.
“The shipping industry often forgets that shipbreaking is not only about recycling, but also generates hazardous wastes that need to be disposed of in an environmentally sound manner,” Satish Sinha from member organisation Toxic Links, said, adding that “in India, the enforcement of hazardous waste rules is not very effective and systems for tracking waste are inadequate. This results in leakages of hazardous waste.”
Local environmental groups have submitted letters to the European Commission highlighting pollution caused by the beaching method, the lack of transparent and adequate downstream management, as well as labour rights violations.
The letters sent by Gujarati NGOs Paryavaran Mitra and Machimar Adhikar Sangarsh Sangstha welcome that the EU has taken “a strong stance against the continued acceptance of breaking ships directly on the beach,” a practice which is banned in other parts of the world, as the local environmentalists argue.
“We share the Gujarat-based NGOs’ concerns and demand that European ship owners do not settle for double standards. Ship owners should only use facilities that operate at a level which is accepted in the European Union,” Patrizia Heidegger, Executive Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, said.