Unscientific use of obsolete ships spoils coastal environ

January 31, 2009

Chittagong Correspondent
Environment pollution at Sitakund coast here in Chittagong has allegedly been mounting to an alarming level mainly due to unscientific recycling of obsolete ocean-cruising vessels, dumping of toxic substances and unused bunkers in the seawater.
Obsolete ship scrapping, one of the emerging sectors and major source of raw iron supplies to the steel re-rolling mills in the region, has been causing air pollution by emitting toxic gases into the air mainly come from frequent burning of different types of industrial and chemical garbages and water contamination by discharging soluble toxic chemicals, heavy and radioactive metals including unused bunker.
Apart from the damages done to the environment, most of the ship recycling workers is seriously exposed to hazardous gases and toxic metals in the absence of necessary awareness about the toxicity of the substances they are handling and minimum safety precautions against the hazards.
Asbestos, lead, cadmium, nickel, mercury, liquid ammonia, anti-corrosive chemical agents, damaged paints, enamel thinner, different types of acid and hydrocarbons including radioactive metals are among the toxic substances going to the sea and the coastal enclave.
Toxic substances get into the water or choked down into the earth in the careless recycling processes contaminating sub-soil water aquifer. Unused bunker that goes on the land surface spoils the micronutrient value of the soil and hampers aquatic life when spills into the water.
According to a recent study done by the Young Power in Social Action (YPSA) a total of 42 ship-recycling yards are on operation along the Sitakund coastline and nearly 85 to 100 outdated vessels are being recycled at these yards a year.
Because of the ongoing global economic melt down and rapid technological advancement in design, shape and utility of the oceangoing vessels in the recent decades, more than 1000 seagoing vessels are being taken out of service by the owners a year.
Ocean transports built under obsolete technologies decades ago have potential chances of containing different substances that are considered highly toxic for human and as well for the water bodies.
Owners of the obsolete ships usually prefer poorer Asian countries including Bangladesh for dumping their useless vessels just to get better value in the absence of stronger environment protection laws and careless attitude of the people may stand against the deals.
Interestingly enough that the money-making industry has never ever taken care of by the state regulatory bodies nor given any guideline for doing the recycling business in the light of international conventions.
Though some of the private voluntary development organizations (PVDO) and development partners of the land have started raising voice against the unscientific method of ship recycling and putting pressure on the public agencies for formulating a comprehensive policy for the industry, no effective and visible move has so far been taken from the state side to address the problems.
According to some environment experts and marine biologists in the city, more than 40 known fish species have so far disappeared from the coastal area over the last couple of decades throwing the local fisherman flock out of their traditional means of livelihood.
On the other hand, as the ship recycling is usually done manually and without safety precautions, workers often get exposed to frequent accidents and casualties. Several hundred scrap-yard workers have been killed in the accidents occurred out of extremely poor safety arrangement over the last two decades.
Professor Noman Ahmed Siddiqui, a marine scientist, said that the authorities concerned should pay adequate heed for protection of the coastal environment before it gets out of control and remedial actions otherwise the damages will cost far beyond the nation can afford.

Courtesy: nation.ittefaq.com

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