Status of Shipbreaking Industry: BELA serves legal notice seeking cancellation of change

Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association yesterday served legal notice on the authorities concerned seeking cancellation of the status change of Chattogram's harmful shipbreaking industry from red to orange.

When an industry is categorised as red, it has the highest obligation to comply with environmental guidelines.

Industries categorised as orange -- which include factories that make sports equipment, agro-equipment, combs, bread and biscuit -- do not require any environmental impact assessment (EIA), a process of evaluating the likely environmental impacts of a proposed project or development.

The copies of the notice were sent to the environment, forest and climate change ministry, director general of Department of Environment, industries ministry, its labour and employment wing and Bangladesh Shipbreakers Association.

The DoE last month changed the category of Chattogram's shipbreaking industry, bringing it to orange (kha) category from red.

Being a highly polluting industry, the shipbreaking industry had been categorised as red, meaning it had to follow the environmental compliance strictly.

"Developed countries abandoned shipbreaking as it is highly dangerous for environment and human health. India and Pakistan made it mandatory to conduct EIA for the industry so that pollution scenario could be projected. But the change in status in Bangladesh will exempt the [shipyard] owners from this obligation," the notice said.

The notice demanded the rationality of the decision be made public.

It also said the asbestos, a toxic substance, is categorised as a red material under the Environment Conservation Act-1997, but the asbestos-laced ships have been downgraded to Orange (kha), a contradiction that must be explained.

"The High Court in several orders asked the authorities concerned to take steps to free the ships of toxic substances, to make sure the workers are safe. The authorities are yet to achieve the capacity to comply with the court orders," the notice added.


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