Bangladesh's ship-breaking companies are allegedly importing and scrapping toxic ships without properly following the 2010 Supreme Court directives, resulting in environmental damage and workers' deaths in scrapyards.
The apex court on August 22, 2010 directed Bangladesh Ship Breakers' Association (BSBA) to execute the High Court's May 11, 2010 order to get all ships decontaminated at their source or outside Bangladesh territory.
The HC also directed BSBA to get certificates, before the import, from the authorities concerned providing clearance that the ships have been properly cleaned.
Afterwards on March 7, 2011, the HC allowed conditional import and dismantling of toxic ships on grounds that the importers and yard owners “ensure public and workers' safety and environmental protection”.
The departments of environment and shipping are now randomly giving certificates to ship-breaking companies for importing and scrapping ships, said an environmental campaigner, on condition of anonymity, monitoring ship-breaking activities.
Every year, some 80 to 100 ships containing hazardous materials and toxic chemicals are dismantled at over 100 yards in the coastal regions, he said.
Five fatal incidents in the yards in 2012 and this year left five workers dead and nine others injured, stated leading environmentalist organisation Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (Bela).
Bela Chief Executive Syeda Rizwana Hasan told The Daily Star recently that the ship-breaking companies were still not properly following the directives the Appellate Division and High Court Division of the SC have been giving from 2009 till date.
The malpractice was due to loopholes in two relevant rules, which the ministries of industries and environment framed separately as per the SC directive, over the import and scrapping of ships, she said.
Rizwana, however, refused to go into the details of the rules since those are now pending with the HC for scrutiny.
The SC on January 12, 2012 sent the two rules to the HC so that the latter can examine whether those were prepared as per previous HC directives.
The two rules have given priority to the import of ships considering it an industry, but have not stressed the protection of the environment and workers' safety, said the environmental campaigner.
Advocate Anisul Huq, lawyer for BSBA, recently told The Daily Star that there was no legal bar on importing and scrapping ships as the government framed the two rules to this effect as per the SC directives.