No ships can be imported and scrapped at the ship-breaking yards without environmental clearance certificate, said the High Court.
The High Court gave the instruction while delivering a verdict declaring illegal the permission for importing, beaching and scrapping of the MT Producer, an imported scrap vessel at a ship-breaking yard in Chattogram's Sitakunda on Thursday.
Citing that ship-breaking activities are violating domestic and international laws, the HC gave four instructions to control the activities.
The HC bench of Justice Syed Refaat Ahmed and Justice Md Salim gave the verdict while disposing of a writ petition filed by the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) in 2017.
Syeda Rizwana Hasan appeared for BELA.
In August 2016, The Janata Steel Mill bought the 52,000-tonne MT Producer at a price of Tk51.82 crore from the Danish shipping company Maersk and imported it to Bangladesh.
Then a Danish newspaper and the Brussels-based NGO named Shipbreaking Platform reported that there was a suspected presence of radioactive material in one of the ship's pipes and the ship was imported to Bangladesh based on clearance certificate collected from an unknown agency.
Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association filed a writ petition on June 8, 2017 challenging the import of the ship to Bangladesh based on fake documents.
On August 29 of the same year, the HC issued an injunction on breaking of the ship. The HC also issued a rule asking why the clearance certificates issued in favour of the MT Producer should not be declared illegal.
Taking into consideration that the ship has partially been scrapped, the HC bench on Thursday also instructed the Health Physics and Radioactive Waste Management Unit of the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission to come up with an action plan to complete 100 percent scrutiny about the contamination and wastes of the MT Producer.
The plan will be prepared under the supervision of the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission, the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority, the Mega Port Authority, and a senior scientist, the court instructed.
The court also ordered that the ship importer Janata Steel Mill will bear the total expenses of the scrutiny activities, but will not be able to take part in the activities.
The Department of Environment can now order the Janata Steel Corporation to compensate as per the environment conservation law for polluting the environment by violating the conditions of the environmental clearance certificate, said the HC.
The court asked the government to prepare a list of the cash buyers and other agencies concerned that give certificates whether any ship is free from contamination and hazardous wastes. The government has also been asked to control their activities strictly with enforcement of the relevant laws.
To get authentic information if the ships contain toxic wastes, the court said the government should take necessary measures to control the import of ships from the countries holding "Gray" and "Black" flags (Comoros, Palau, Cambodia, Tanzania, Vanuatu, St. Kitts and Nevis, Belize, Cook Islands, Sierra Leone, Togo and so on).
The High Court asked the department of environment not to allow import and beaching of ships for breaking without getting complete and detailed information about the wastes.