The Ministry of Environment and Forests in a rejoinder yesterday contested a news analysis published in The Daily Star on January 31 under the headline "Good genie vs evil genie". We are publishing the rejoinder verbatim today and will publish our reply tomorrow.
The rejoinder says the news analysis titled 'Good genie vs evil genie' has drawn the attention of the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The ministry strongly condemns this type of politically motivated, biased, misleading, concocted and subjective news report. The ministry also strongly objects that the news published in the same daily on 30 January, 2011 did not correctly reflect the speech of the Hon'ble State Minister.
In fact, Hon'ble State Minister attended a workshop in Chittagong Chamber Bhaban on 29 January, 2011 organised by the Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industries. In an open discussion of the workshop, a representative of the Ship Breakers' Association pointed out the current stagnant situation of the ship breaking industry describing the price hike of iron rods, huge economic and social consequences of the country and the associated employees.
In response, Hon'ble Minister mentioned that the ministry was always proactive to solve the issue and it took a lot of initiatives. Since this industry is directly related to the infrastructural development and the implementation of annual development programme (ADP), we are very serious to deal with the issue. He further added, we wanted to keep this very promising and apex industry alive but ensuring environmental protection. Shutting down the ship breaking industry was not the solution, he further added. He indicated that a vested interest group was trying to create an iron market in Bangladesh for foreign companies by shutting down our very promising ship breaking industry. He compared the situation with the evil genie.
Hon'ble Minister did not say anything about the influence on Hon'ble High Court. However, the reporter indicated on this.
Based on the directives of the Hon'ble High Court, the ministry took initiative to formulate appropriate rules for the ship breaking industry. Accordingly, the ministry formed a high-level technical committee with the representation of experts from the Chittagong University, BUET, NGOs, relevant government agencies and Bangladesh Navy. The technical committee was basically formed of all relevant stakeholders.
The Ship Breakers' Association is not included in the technical committee but they were consulted in formulating the rules as relevant stakeholder. Similarly, in order to preserve the interest of workers of ship breaking industry, Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) was consulted in formulating the rules. According to the advice of the technical committee, detailed rules titled "Ship Dismantling Waste and Hazardous Waste Management Rules" were finally formulated and forwarded to the Ministry of Law for vetting.
Department of Environment issued environment clearance certificate in favour of some ship breaking yards based on recommendations of the technical committee and the current compliance status evaluated by the technical committee and DoE. Even with full compliance accidents may happen in any industry any time. The ministry did not issue any permission for ship importing or ship beaching because the Ministry of Environment and Forests does not deal with this matter. The reporter personally attacked on the reputation of Hon'ble Minister without producing any credible evidence.