Friday, January 06, 2006

A drop in the ocean

The French aircraft carrier Clemenceau is headed to Alang, Gujarat for getting dismantled at the biggest ship breaking yard and has is generating a lot of controversy. The biggest point of contention being the amount of asbestos on the ship, which has been banned by several countries. Two types of as asbestos exist: blue and white, both are known to be carcinogenic, Clemenceau has blue asbestos and depending on different sources, it has from 50 tonnes to 500 tonnes abroad it.

But this is just a small fraction of the annual asbestos trade in India.
Stalling one ship, letting a sea of asbestos flow in
The above article in IE reports that India imports about 1.5 lakh tonnes of asbestos per year and it is a Rs. 2000 crore industry. More interestingly, the Supreme Court, as early as 1995, indicated asbestos as dangerous and required industries to maintain a record of medical cases relating to it. Further:
Flying in the face of this, the last Budget reduced Customs duty on asbestos to 15% it was 78% in 1995-96.
asbestos is thriving in India. It is a Rs 2000-crore industry with 14 large players and 673 small-scale units. The reason: government policy and violations of apex court regulations.

We not only need a policy, to setup guidelines and ensure their implementation of strict health safety measures at the ship-breaking yards and a policy to send back the hazardous waste to originating countries, but also need to address the question of national policy on asbestos conisdering the SC directives ... else monster aircraft carriers like the Clemenceau will be drops in the ocean of asbestos.

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