The Express Tribune – Ship breaking: Call for proper waste management

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18 August 2015 - Experts have called for putting in place a stringent regime to ensure safety of labourers and manage the hazardous waste caused by ship dismantling at the Gaddani ship breaking yard in Balochsitan.

They were speaking at a policy workshop titled “Environmentally-Sound Management of Waste from Ship Dismantling in Pakistan”, organised by the Climate Change Ministry in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) here on Monday.

The experts while urging relevant agencies to take immediate measures to comply with international standards noted that lack of steps for proper management of the hazardous waste was further aggravating environmental pollution.

They emphasised that Pakistan needed to comply with international standards for safe and environmentally sound ship recycling to save the ship breaking industry from a complete collapse, which accounts for nearly 200,000 direct and indirect employments besides contributing over Rs8 billion to the kitty.

The industry is stretched over a long waterfront of more than 10 kilometres with about 130 active ship recycling yards which are operated by roughly 32 recyclers. The beach is remarkably excellent with steep water draft and almost a non-tidal zone where highest tides go up just slightly three metres, as compared to 10 metres-plus tides at Alang in India and Chittagong in Bangladesh.

The ship-breaking involves generation of hazardous waste and toxic substances, which cause environmental pollution. The pollution or contamination can have both acute and long-term effects on human health and environment. Many of the ships that come for demolition contain contaminants and dangerous chemicals.

“Efforts are being made with the help of experts from the UNEP to ensure that environmental protection and labour safety standards are enforced at the Gadani ship breaking yard,” said Climate Change Ministry Joint Secretary Sajjad Ahmed Bhutta, who is also the national project coordinator of the Environmentally-Sound Management of Waste from Ship Dismantling in Pakistan.

He said that the government was fully committed to its national and international obligations to safeguard the environment by putting in place environmental-friendly ship breaking practices.

“Pakistan has taken various initiatives for the protection of environment over the past two decades and is a signatory to a number of international conventions and protocols on environmental issues especially hazardous chemicals and wastes,” he said.

While talking about the prime goals of the project, he said, “this project shall focus on the development of inventories of hazardous waste and other waste at Gaddani. Following the development of inventories, plans will be developed to assist the government and industry to establish the requisite infrastructure for environmentally safe ship recycling”.

Pakistan Ship Breakers’ Association member Asif Ali welcomed any support that helped the ship breaking firms in Pakistan to comply with international environmental and safety standards during ship breaking activities.

Project Manager at Sofies SA, an international consultant firm in sustainability, David Martin, said that 70 per cent of ship breaking activities take place in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. “But it does not happen in conformity with principles of environmental protection, which leads to large-scale marine pollution and health hazards for local communities because of handling of hazardous waste from ship breaking activities.”

He called for proper management o hazardous waste to control environmental degradation in coastal areas.