Clemenceau is a french warship built between 1955 and 1961 which served France for 40 years. It also took part in 1991 Gulf war. But now it’s become old and has been replaced by french nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. So the french government has decides to decommission it.
You might wonder as to what this has to do with the Great Indian Dream??!!
Well, the problem lies in the fact that the warship will be scrapped on the coasts of Gujarat in India with the massive amount toxic waste of the scrapped ship ending up partially on Indian soil and partially inside the bodies of the Indian workers who scrap the ship.
Does India really need such business opportunities which not only contaminate its environment but also prove hazardous to its people. Doesn’t it look like India being a dumpyard for the waste of the west?
Well, first of all why is France not having the ship scrapped in its own country or at some other nearby european country? Well, for the simple reason that unlike India, the european environmental laws are quite stringent. So third world countries, especially in the subcontinent of India are easy targets for such junk.
To let you know the facts, Alang naval yard in Gujarat in India is the world’s largest ship breaking yard.
Now, do you think this is a fact which we need to be proud of? Certainly not. Note that it is the largest ship breaking yard in the world, not Ship Building one. This simply means that it is a welcome point to largest amount of toxic waste in the world.
Having said all this, whatz so dangerous about ship breaking in India. Well, all these ships which have become old and are being scrapped are those which were built during 1940s to 1960s and during that period using asbestos as an insulating material was pretty common. Asbestos is a wonderful insulator and is used around hot parts of ships like boilers, etc to prevent heat radiating to other parts of the ship. At the same time it is a deadly carcinogenic substance and is banned in the modern world. The French ship alone is said to be containing over 100 tons of deadly asbestos still left in it!!
Earlier to this the ship had been sent to Greece and Turkey for being scrapped there and both the countries had returned the ship back saying they cannot handle the waste!! Can India???
Under European law France should remove most asbestos from the ship and dump it on french soil before having it scrapped at a third country. French government claims that it has removed 115 tonnes of asbestos from the ship already. Ironically, an year back the same French government had said that the ship contained only 22 tonnes of asbestos!! At the same time, Technopure, the company which had earlier removed some of the asbestos from the ship says that the ship could still contain 500 to 1000 tonnes of asbestos in it!!!
The end result being that all the toxic material ends up into the environment of India causing health hazards, deaths, pollution and calamities in the disguise of business opportunities and employment. Every year this has been claiming the lives of thousands who are exposed to the hazardous chemical substances during their work. Greenpeace has already prepared a report about 110 workers who had been killed in ship breaking yards of India and Bangladesh. This is just the tip of the iceberg and accounts only for KNOWN deaths that too in the yards itself. This number does not even include those died of diseases caused by toxic substances.
Ban Asbestos and Greenpeace had lodged a suit with the Paris administrative court on the grounds that procedures at the Alang naval yard are inadequate to allow the asbestos to be removed without endangering the workers and that Indian laws are not strong enough to protect the workers.
Ironically both India and France are bound by the Bale convention signed in 1989 which bans countries from exporting toxic waste. French government has said that Bale convention does not apply for warships!! The International Maritime Organisation IMO is trying with all its might to keep toxic single-hulled tankers that will be phased out in the next 5 years out of any new international regulations that ban export of toxic waste!!! As a green peace activist puts it, They are happy to continue to send contaminated end of life ships with all toxic substances to places where workers and environemt are not protected. Unfortunately, India being one such place.
There is no known safe exposure to asbestos as the mineral particles are microsopic and air borne and can be inhaned easily. Asbestos can result in lung cancer, asbestosis (scarring of lungs), mesothelioma (a rare cancer of the lining of the chest and abdomen lining)
In the United States the production of all asbestos-containing materials for home construction and use was banned, in three stages over seven years, beginning in 1990.
Ans it not just Asbestos, there are many more toxic substances that will be scrapped off at these so called world’s largest ship breaking yards.
The ship has been bought by Shree Ram Vessels and Luthra Group which hope to scrap it in the shores of Gujarat and earn about 40 crore Indian rupees from the scrap metal!! Are the lives of the workers involved in this scrapping less worth than this??
However, a hope on Clemenceau is that the honourable Supreme Court of India has set up a monitoring committe which will meet on 6th of January to decide on whether the ship can be scrapped in India or not depending upon the report submitted to it by Gujarat environment board. Let us hope that the ship will be sent back..