Workers face health hazards everyday | The Daily Star
11:00 PM, October 30, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:00 PM, October 30, 2009

Ship-breaking Yards

Workers face health hazards everyday

More than 50,000 people are working in the ship-breaking industry in Chittagong with serious health hazards because of the poisonous waste released from old ships.
The workers and people in the adjoining areas are also being attacked with various diseases frequently.
There are 56 ship-breaking yards on the coast in Sitakunda upazila while thousands of adult and adolescent workers work amid serious health hazards.
Though they have chosen this hazardous job only to earn their bread, many of them are not physically fit for such hard work. Therefore, incidents of various types of accidents and casualties are rampant in the ship-breaking yards, but there is no hospital in that industrial area.
Old ships worth several thousand crores of Taka are purchased and brought to Sitakunda every year for breaking while more than two lakh people are involved directly and indirectly with this industry.
The labourers, local people and environment and human rights activists have long been demanding a hospital in the area, but to no avail.
If any worker is injured or if anyone falls sick, the patient is taken to Chittagong Medical College Hospital, which is 30 kilometers away from the ship-breaking yards.
People concerned said every ship brought for breaking in the yard is harmful for the environment as all the ships contain poisonous chemicals.
Though there is a rule for cleaning the ship from where it is procured, it is not followed by most of the owners of ship-breaking yards.
DFID Environment Consultant Prof Noman Ahmed Siddiqui told BSS that the owners of the ship-breaking yards are polluting the environment by releasing waste defying the rules.
He said uneducated and poor people working in the ship-breaking industry are dying from inhaling poisonous gas. People are also being attacked with various diseases.
Bangladesh Environment Lawyers Association (BELA) Chittagong Divisional Coordinator Advocate Anwarul Islam Chowdhury said they are working to preserve the environment and protect the rights of the workers in the ship-breaking industry.
Chittagong Regional Director of Department of Forest M Abdus Sobhan said there is a High Court verdict to preserve the environment and uphold rights of the workers in the ship-breaking industry, but it is not being implemented properly.
A member of Bangladesh Ship Breakers Association, on condition of anonymity, said the yard owners are conscious about preservation of the environment and protection of labour rights.

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