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Blue Lady | Trade union launches drive

Greenpeace, CITU and Ban Asbestos Network have come together to campaign against the 315-m long ship.

india Updated: Jul 06, 2006 21:31 IST

One of India's largest unions announced a campaign on Thursday to stop the Blue Lady, a toxic ship, from being dismantled in the country.

The Marxist-affiliated Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) said that it was teaming up with environmental group Greenpeace, which opposes the dismantling of the 11-storey Blue Lady at a ship-breaking yard in Alang in Gujarat.

"We see ships filled with toxic wastes coming to India for dismantling as aggression unleashed by the developed world against developing countries," CITU leader PK Ganguly told a news conference.

The former French luxury liner, which Greenpeace says contains 900 tonnes of asbestos and other cancer-causing materials, is anchored 72 nautical miles (133 kilometres) off the Gujarat coast after arriving in Indian waters last week.

Earlier, the Supreme Court gave permission for the ship to enter Indian waters, but said that it could not be broken up until its contents were determined.

In February, it was turned away by Bangladesh on the grounds it was too toxic to be dismantled there.

"We're determined to stop such practices, and if needed we shall launch a countrywide agitation against hazardous wastes being dumped in India," Ganguly said, flanked by members of Greenpeace and the Ban Asbestos Network.

"It's illegal and immoral and so we are thinking of militant activity to protect the health of workers at the ship-breaking yard," Ganguly said.

He did not elaborate on what he meant by "militant activity."

Workers at Alang, Asia's largest ship-breaking yard, say that the 46,000-tonne ship would offer them much-needed work. But environmentalists say such vessels should be decontaminated before they are dismantled and that Alang's workers were not equipped to handle toxic materials.

"Asbestos is one of the most hazardous materials the world has produced and de-contamination technologies are available," Greenpeace official Gopal Krishna said. "All we're saying is that Blue Lady's owners should remove such materials before it is broken up," he said.

Greenpeace, CITU and the Ban Asbestos Network have formed an umbrella group, the Indian Platform on Shipbreaking, to campaign against the 315-metre (1,035-foot) ship.

The SS France, the last purpose-built ocean liner ever made, was renamed the SS Norway and later Blue Lady after being sold by its French owners in 1979.