DNA – SC bans entry of foreign ships with toxic waste

(Written by Rakesh Bhatnagar)

7 July 2012 – The Supreme Court on Friday ruled that ailing foreign ships waiting to be dismantled in ship-breaking yards at Alang must be first washed of their toxic materials at their place of origin before they enter the Indian waters.

In a landmark judgment while hearing a lawsuit filed by the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy, the apex court asserted that the vessels that carry wastes must be cleaned “before entering into Indian waters”.

Disposing of the PIL filed in 1995, the court directed the Union government to “ban import of all hazardous/toxic wastes which had been identified and fit under the BASEL Convention and its different protocols”.

A bench of Justices Altamas Kabir and J Chelameswar also directed the government to bring the Hazardous Wastes (Management & Handling) Rules, 1989, in line with the BASEL Convention and Articles 21, 47 and 48A of the Constitution.

The petitioner’s lawyer Sanjay Parikh had drawn the court’s attention to the authorities’ indifference to the court’s mandate and their facilitating foreign ailing, contaminated ships carrying waste oil to enter the country.

According to a recent application filed by the foundation, besides ‘Oriental Nicety’ there were many other ships that were lined up at the entry of the Indian waters. It said that since the court’s 2007 directions, many ships have been allowed entry and broken at the vessels graveyard.

One of the mandates passed by the court was that before a ship arrives at port, she should be armed with “proper consent” from the authority concerned or the State Maritime Board that she is hazardous free and not carrying any radioactive substances.

She should be properly decontaminated by the ship owner prior to the breaking. This should be ensured by the state pollution control boards.

Disposal of waste material such as oil, cotton, dead cargo of inorganic material like hydrated or solidified elements, theromocol pieces, glass wool, rubber, broken tiles et al “should be done in a scientific manner so that 99.9 per cent contamination is washed off away from India.