BBC News – Greenpeace shipyard protest

9 December 1999 – Three activists from the environmental group Greenpeace have chained themselves to a Greek cargo ship to prevent it entering a controversial ship-breaking yard in western India.

A Greenpeace spokesman in Delhi, Marcelo Furlado, said the three would stay chained to the ship’s anchor until the Indian authorities stopped it from entering the Alang yard in the state of Gujerat.

“We want to draw attention to the ongoing dumping of toxic and hazardous wastes on Indian shores in the guise of trading ships-for-scrap,” he said.

Every month 20 to 30 workers die due to pollution

Greenpeace says scrapped ships contains materials which are hazardous to workers’ health.

“Shipowners in Europe and the United States must take steps to decontaminate their ships in their own country, at their own expense, before sending their ships to India for scrapping,” Mr Furlado said.

“Each month 15 to 20 workers at the Alang ship-breaking yard die due to pollution caused by the broken ships,” he said.

Environmental activists say that amongst other hazards, workers develop cancer after exposure to some of the paints used on ships’ hulls.

International obligations

Greenpeace called on India to lead demands for the decontamination of ships before they are sent to countries in Asia to be broken up.

It said India should sign up to the Basel Convention which prohibits the transportation of hazardous waste across national boundaries.

“We demand that the parties to this international treaty take full responsibility for decontaminating their ships, instead of exporting the problem to Asian countries like India and China,” Greenpeace said.

Working conditions at Alang are extremely primitive with workers – many of them migrants from poorer parts of India – dismantling ships by hand using hammers chisels and blowtorches.

Greenpeace has campaigned in recent years for action to be taken over conditions at yard, which is estimated to employ 30,000 to 40,000 workers.

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