The High Court yesterday directed the government to frame rules within next three months to ban import of any hazardous ships for scrapping.
The rules must be framed in the light of six existing laws-- Basel Convention Act, 1989; Bangladesh Environment Protection Act, 1995; Bangladesh Marine and Fisheries Ordinance, 1989; Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006; Bangladesh Territorial Water and Maritime Zone Act, 1974, and Environment Protection Rules, 1997, according to the HC ruling.
In response to a petition filed by Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers' Association (Bela), an HC bench also ordered the government to form an expert committee within a month to check whether any ships with inbuilt hazardous materials enter the country's territorial waters.
The committee should comprise meteorologist, nuclear scientist, chemical engineer, environmental activist, environmental lawyer, journalist, and medical professional, observed the court.
No ship would be allowed inside Bangladesh territorial waters until the committee confirms that the ship is free from hazardous substances.
The HC also asked the government not to issue no objection certificates (NOC) to ship importers without pre-cleaning certificates issued by the governments of the exporting countries or any registered agencies nominated by them.
The government is to give highest priority to the health and safety of labourers, it said.
The HC bench of Justice AHM Shamsuddin Chowdhury Manik and Justice Sheikh Md Zakir Hossain came up with the directives following the petition filed on December 12.
Bela filed the petition as supplementary to the original writ petition upon which the HC on March 17 last year directed the government to frame specific rules considering the relevant laws to prevent import of toxic ships.
In the recent petition, Bela alleged the government disregarded the earlier court order, allowing the ship breakers to continue their business by illegal means and that led to the death of 30 workers and maiming of 25 others in the last 18 months since the judgment was passed.
In yesterday's ruling, the HC bench also directed the government and the ship breakers to implement last year's HC verdict.
Syeda Rizwana Hasan and Iqbal Kabir Lytton appeared for Bela, while Rokanuddin Mahmud, Anisul Huq and Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh argued for the ship breakers.