Greenpeace wants better ship breaking industry
New Delhi, January 25: Greenpeace today responded sharply to reports that a section of workers in Alang, Gujarat protested against the organisation’s opposition to the Clemenceau. "It is understandable for the average worker at Alang to be anxious of his immediate future, these are daily wage workers and they are impacted immediately. They are neither told about the hazardous consequences of the toxics they deal with, nor are they aware of their rights before it is too late," said Ramapati Kumar, Greenpeace India toxics campaigner.
"However the attitude of local politicians from Bhavnagar who led the protest is shocking and shameful. Instead of simply fishing on the anxieties of the poor they claim to represent, the local political leadership must use this 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 others countries as well" he said.
Ramapati drew attention to the fact that in June 2000, Greenpeace was invited by the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) to take environmental samples from the plots in Alang. The Greenpeace 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 (FIDH) visited Alang on two occasions – in 2000 and 2002. Their report was a strong indictment on the labour rights violations at Alang.
Greenpeace is not campaigning against the ship-breaking industry to halt its existence, but is simply 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.
Responding specifically to the Clemenceau, Greenpeace India Executive Director, Ananth Padmanabhan said that it borders on the grotesque when a common fight among many NGOs to prevent pollution and secure safe working conditions is mistaken for an anti-Indian campaign.
India is now the focus in this long Clemenceau saga because this huge asbestos carrier is headed for Alang, not the U.S. or other Asian scrap yards. Protests were also rife when the French government tried to dump the asbestos laden decommissioned aircraft carrier 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.
In response to allegations that the ship-breaking industry is 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 USD 300 per tonne against a maximum of USD 250 in India, Clearly business is shifting due to market realities and not because Greenpeace is campaigning for the industry to leave India.
Greenpeace will continue to fight for the environment and for the rights of the workers who are forced to work in appalling environmental conditions. The ILO and SCMC have both acknowledged the concerns expressed in the recent Greenpeace report on human rights and have called for urgent improvements. The report also brings to light similar conditions in other Asian ship breaking scrap yards.
"End of life ships- the human cost of breaking ships" Report available at www.greenpeace.org/alang
To know more about the Greenpeace campaign against dirty ship breaking visit:
For further information contact:
Ramapati Kumar, Greenpeace Toxics Campaigner +91 9845535414
Vivek Sharma, Greenpeace India Communications +91 9343788424