A team from the Centre will examine an American ship allegedly containing hazardous substances, anchored near Alang, some 250 km southwest of Ahmedabad, since October 4 for demolition.
This despite the Gujarat government giving a go-ahead for the ship to be dismantled at Alang, the world’s leading ship breaking centre.
Platinum II, a passenger ship, contains hazardous substances such as asbestos and Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), environmental group Indian Platform on Ship Breaking (IPSB) has alleged.
The team examining Platinum II would comprise officials from the Atomic Energy Regulation Board, Ministry of Steel and Central Pollution Control Board.
Gopal Krishna, coordinator of IPSB, said the ship even contained radioactive substances — a claim Gujarat agencies have denied.
“Checking the ships for toxicity and giving clearance falls under our (Gujarat Pollution Control Board’s) domain, which we have done thoroughly.
If the central agencies have any doubt, they are free to check it themselves,” S.K. Nanda, Principal Secretary, environment and forests, government of Gujarat, told HT.
“The ship SS Independent containing hazardous substances flouted the US Environmental Protection Agency norms and entered the Indian shores with a new name, Platinum II,” Krishna countered. “While the Customs and Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) allowed the ship to anchor without checking its credentials, the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB), which is not equipped to assess such harmful substances, sees no problem with the ship.”
GPCB officials denied the claims. “The ship has 210 tonnes of asbestos and 20 tonnes of PCB containing material, which pose no problem as such and which can be handled safely at Alang, as per Supreme Court directions,” an official said. “Our inspections done on October 8 show that there is no presence of radioactive substances.”
However, taking note of the activists’ concern, the Ministry of Environment and Forests on Wednesday requested Gujarat state agencies to again ascertain the ship’s contents. Their conclusions were reportedly no different.
“Though we asked the GPCB and GMB to recheck the ship, we would be sending a team of our own to clear the picture,” a ministry official told HT over phone from New Delhi.
In 2006, French warship Clemenceau anchored in Alang for dismantling was called back after it was found to contain toxic substances.
Following this, the SC had passed orders to set in place a proper treatment mechanism to rid ships off the oil and other poisonous substances, and govern the ship breaking industry.
The Gujarat government and environment ministry have recently differed over the plan to relocate lions from the Gir national park out of the state.