Crystal Gold, the vessel that ran aground at Chattogram's Parki Sea Beach two years ago during cyclone Mora, is still there threatening the environment.
Legal complications have stalled moving of the vessel to a ship breaking yard in Sitakunda and the environment of the 13km-long sea beach in Anwara upazila, a popular tourist spot, would surely be harmed if it was dismantled there, experts say.
Crystal Group was the owner of the 168-metre bulk carrier and it was facing legal complications over bank loans and payment of crew members. Four Star Corporation in October last year bought the ship.
Unable to move the vessel, it took initiatives in December to dismantle the vessel on the beach but the Department of Environment (DoE) slapped it with a Tk 2 crore fine saying it had not taken the mandatory clearance.
Badrul Huda, assistant director of DoE Chattogram, said, “Four Star started breaking up the ship without our approval. After receiving a complaint, we visited the spot and found 1.5 acres of area was getting polluted by the discharges of the ship.”
Hundreds of people visit the beach every day. A few hundred makeshift shops, restaurants, and rest houses have sprung there. Locals and experts said if the ship was dismantled on the beach, it would also harm the environment as well as tourism.
On January 15, Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association filed a writ petition with the High Court against the dismantling of the ship mentioning possible environmental damage.
Seven days later, the ministry of industries after inspecting the spot wrote to the DoE and Chattogram deputy commissioner to stop the ship breaking there.
It said the beach was not a government authorised ship breaking zone and the ministry had not been informed about the dismantling process.
On February 15, the DC's office told the DoE to take environment-friendly steps as per Bangladesh Ship Recycling Act-2018 for scrapping the vessel.
DoE Chattogram Region Director Mohammad Moazzem Hossain said an appeal of Four Star regarding the fine imposed on them was pending with the High Court.
“No decision can be taken until the court settles it. Opinions of all stakeholders including the ministry of industries will be considered before taking further steps,” he told this paper.
During a visit on March 11, this correspondent found ship-breaking workers living in a makeshift house erected on the spot. Some workers said they were awaiting nod from the High Court.
Abul Kalam Azad, owner of Four Star Corporation, said, “The ship was purchased through auction on the condition that it would be scrapped at the spot where it is stuck as it cannot be moved.”
He said an attempt to move the ship to Sitakunda failed. “There is no alternative to dismantling it at Parki. We are waiting for the issue to be solved by the High Court.”
Kamrul Islam, a shopkeeper at the beach, claimed that the ship dismantling process began in December polluted a portion of the area.
“It was stopped after the intervention of the DoE. But if the vessel is dismantled here, then the entire area will be polluted with toxic discharges. It will damage the tourism prospects too.”
DoE officials and many others in the area echoed Kamrul's view.
During the cyclone in 2017, Crystal Gold, anchored at Chattogram Port's outer anchorage, ran aground near Parki beach.