//France offers to detox

France offers to detox

New Delhi: French Ambassador to India, Dominic Girard, has said that his government is prepared to take back the toxic waste from the French warship Clemenceau.

According to CNN-IBN Live channel in India, Girard made the offer at a press conference in Bhavnagar near Alang in Gujarat. He said, "We are prepared to take asbestos back to France if the courts and India is prepared for it." As the country debates over the fate of the warship, Girard is on a visit to the Alang ship-breaking yard. With less than two weeks to go for French President Jacques Chirac’s visit, he is on a damage-control exercise.

The French team will assess the kind of equipment needed if Clemenceau is allowed to be broken down in Alang. In Bhavnagar, Gujarat, Girard said that he would like to inspect the working conditions at the ship-breaking yard. But Praveen Nagar Sheth, President of Iron and Steel Ship Breaking Association of India, said the French government should have no say in the matter. "As far as Clemenceau is concerned, the process should be on the same terms and conditions. There should not be any specific additional condition which other ship-breakers cannot apply," Sheth said.

When asked if the toxic ship has any potential of spoiling Chirac’s visit, Girard said, "We have a totally transparent approach on this issue and we have very good contacts with the Indian government. As you know, we have been very keen to satisfy all the desires and requirements of the Supreme Court committee. So, I see things are pretty much normal and there are no problems."

Environmental activists, including those from Greenpeace India and the Ban Asbestos Forum are protesting that India is seen as a convenient dumping ground, due to weak laws concerning disposal of hazardous waste. "The ship is not properly decontaminated and we’ll not let it come to India," says Greenpeace campaigner, Ramapati Kumar. Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena is also protesting, but for other reasons. Party workers are against the visit of Greenpeace activists in the ship-breaking yard.

Shiv Sena says if the ship is turned back, several people will lose jobs.The Ship Builders Association and the Shiv Sena also say that the scrap yard at one point of time used to hire more than 90,000 workers but now just hires 5,000 workers.