‘Ship breaking activities harming marine, coastal ecosystem’
ISLAMABAD: Environmental experts and other stakeholders on Sunday pledged to combine their efforts to achieve sustainable ship breaking activities which will ensure the conservation and protection of coastal and marine ecosystems in the coastal areas of the country. Experts at a national consultative policy workshop titled ‘Sustainable and Environmentally Sound Management of Waste from Ship Recycling in Pakistan’ agreed that coastal and marine ecosystems in the country are exposed to increasingly contaminated seawater because of ship dismantling activities carried out contrary to environmental safeguards.
In his key note address, additional secretary of the science and technology ministry Mohammad Ashraf said the role of investors in ship breaking activities and the owners of Gadani ship breaking yards was vital for conservation efforts.
Experts agree health, waste management standards should be upgraded to avoid EU sanctions, punitive action “Thousands of tons of hazardous waste is piling up at the Gadani ship breaking yard in Baluchistan’s coastal area, which is harming the marine ecosystem, the overall environment, the life of workers at the yard and of those living in nearby areas,” he said.
Also attending the session was Susan Wingfield, programme officer at the Geneva based secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions. She stressed on the need for installing facilities to handle hazardous waste in a scientific and environmentally safe manner in consultation with relevant stakeholders in order to avoid punitive action against or a ban on ship breaking activities under certain regulations of the European Union.
Ms Wingfield said the reasons behind the growth of the ship breaking industry in Pakistan was the comparatively low cost of labour and weak implementation of laws pertaining to environmental protection and workers’ rights. “We will help Pakistan in all possible ways in saving its marine and coastal ecologies by making the ship breaking activities environmentally safe,” she said.
Professor Mohammad Irfan Khan of the Islamic University Islamabad informed the convention of EU ship recycling regulations that were enforced in 2013. He said that according to the regulations, the European Commission is to establish a global list of ship recycling facilities that comply with the regulations.
“To avoid sanctions on dismantling European ships in Pakistan, the country’s yards will either need to move their operations off the beach or will need to upgrade occupational health and safety standards as well as downstream waste management to meet these standards,” he said.International cooperation joint secretary at the climate change ministry Iftikharul Hassan Shah Gilani said ship owners were responsible for the clean and safe recycling of ships since they have benefitted commercially from the vessels.
“Therefore, they must show will and play their part in achieving the goal of dismantling ships in an environment friendly manner,” he added.Senior advisor on chemicals and sustainable industrial development at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute Dr Mahmood Khawaja emphasised on the need for a viable environment-friendly ship recycling strategy. Prof Shyam Asolekar of the Centre for Environmental Science and Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay talked about common hazardous waste, its treatment, storage and safe disposal issues in South Asia. He said the installation of efficient waste treatment plants and effective environmental monitoring have never been more important for reducing the risk of ship disposal to local marine and coastal ecosystems.