New Delhi | January 25, 2006
Environmental group Greenpeace today expressed shock that some politicians in Gujarat had led protests against its campaign against the toxic ship ‘Le Clemenceau’.
Instead of ”fishing on the anxieties of the poor”, the leaders should use the opportunity to transform Alang from its inglorious status ”as a place with appalling working conditions and absolute disdain for the human rights of workers, to a clean ship breaking industry that can be a role model for other countries as well”, a Greenpeace statement said.
The protest by daily wage workers was understandable since they will be efforted immediately. Moreover, they had neither been told about the hazardous consequences of the toxics they deal with nor were they aware of their rights, it quoted Greenpeace India toxics campaigner Ramapati Kumar as saying.
”Greenpeace was invited by the Gujarat Maritime Board to take environmental samples from the plots in Alang in June 2000. The study confirmed that in the course of ship breaking the workers were exposed to a deadly mixture of toxic substances released.
”A delegation from International Federation for Human Rights visited Alang on two occasions — in 2000 and 2002. Their report was a strong indictment on the labour rights violations at Alang”.
He reiterated that Greenpeace was not campaigning against the ship-breaking industry, but was asking for the law — national and international — to be upheld and enforced to enable the industry to work with good environmental practices and decent working conditions for their workforce.
Greenpeace had protested also when the French government ”tried to dump” Clemenceau in European countries such as Spain, Greece and Turkey. ”Following an intervention by Greenpeace, Turkey had refused to accept the contaminated Clemenceau a year and half ago, and that right decision made by Turkey didn’t close down the industry there. In fact, it led to many positive changes in the Turkish ship breaking yards”.
On allegations that the ship-breaking industry was shifting to China and Bangladesh because of demands of higher level of enforcement of environmental and human rights laws in Alang, Kumar said that those countries are paying a higher price for scrap — at least over 300 dollars per tonne against a maximum of 250 dollars in India.
”Clearly business is shifting due to market realities and not because Greenpeace is campaigning for the industry to leave India,” the statement said.