19 March 2013 - NEW DELHI: Notwithstanding environmental and human rights issues, the ship-breaking industry is thriving in the country with the government allowing at least 450-500 ships to come to India for dismantling every year.
This has also turned out to be profitable for the government which has been making more than Rs 1,500 crore a year from customs duty on allowing import of such outdated ships. In fact, some coastal states such as Gujarat have urged the Centre to bring down the customs duty so that more ships can be imported for dismantling.
Every day, thousands of workers engaged in ship-breaking are exposed to radioactive waste considered dangerous for human life. Even areas around ship-breaking yards and the sea water gets contaminated and unfit for habitation or for marine life.
A petition filed in the apex court had argued that toxic metals and gases were exposed to the environment and affected a large population. Mostly, ship-breaking activities are carried out along the Mumbai port and Alang in Gujarat.
In the last four years, at least 1,850 ships have been imported to India for breaking and recycling of scrap. The government made over Rs 4,700 crore in the last four years from customs duty on these ships.
Besides risks to workers engaged in the ship-breaking industry, it generates lead particles and releases metal particles in the air which is dangerous for the health of people in the area who are inhaling toxic air. Exposure to toxic air has already resulted in people in large numbers having reported diseases like high blood pressure, heart diseases and psychological problems. Presence of asbestos is said to have caused cancer to people exposed to ship-breaking activities.