Ship breaking refers to breaking down of the ships that are used for a minimum of 25 to 30 years. It helps to gain the true raw materials or other parts of a ship that can be reused or recycled. Bangladesh has the second largest ship breaking yard in the world that is located at the Chattagram covering about 38 km area. Chattagram Ship Breaking Yard brings out 20% reusable steel metal and in 2019 it made it to the top by dismantling about 47.2% of the total ships, dismantled all over the world.
Although the Chittagong Ship Breaking Yard helps the national economy a lot, its impact on the environment is out of the question. If we calculate the environmental damage cost it will be more than the yearly earning. When a ship is dismantled, steel is what is found mostly. Steels are designed with color paints containing toxic chemicals. In addition, there are other hazardous wastes, asbestos, liters to liters oil that get released during the dismantling. Without eye inspection before breaking down ships there is no other safety measure and the ships are illegally dismantled in open beaches. 81 yards among 150 in total have DoE(Department of Environment) permitted license. This illegal dismantling impacts the environment and its every element negatively. The year-to-year proportional death ratio is increasing due to the alarming situation in the ship breaking yard either from explosions or exposure to toxicities.
According to Bangladesh Ship Recycling Act 2018, Ships must be dismantled in the government permitted zone and nowhere else, must maintain proper waste management, and life insurance must be provided to the working force. A fine of 10 lakhs to 30 lakhs will be given as punishment if anyone violates the law. This act follows several guiding principles. If we talk about the principle of beneficence, no harm, no interference because it supports the good of others and doesn't support any kind of harm to any environmental element or biodiversity. It tries to put a barrier between the human kind to interfere with the environmental entities so that biodiversity remains independent about their shelter, food, and breeding. When it comes to the principle of loyalty and sustainability, the policy ensures that there is no restriction against abiotic things. In this way the policy directly or indirectly sustains biodiversity extraction or degradation and the economic value of the biodiversity of Bangladesh shall uprise. When the economic value will increase, the environment will gain sustainability in biodiversity and social value among the industrialists will rise. Without any second thought this act follows the principle of precautionary, effectiveness and efficiency, responsibility, and proportionality.
The policy was made to minimize the wasteful use of resources so that every resource is used efficiently. To do so, the principle of precautionary plays an important role by providing NOC to the licensed companies, selecting a certain zone for breaking ships, and providing life insurance to the workforce. The state, being responsible enough, investigated several yards and fined different companies based on their illegal activities. The government tried to maintain a proper balance between economic development and environmental sustainability by this law. The waste management should be under control and is a must rule for every ship breaking company. The authority determines a specific zone to break ships so that the waste management remains proper and a very few amount of harm happens to the environment. Though Chattagram Ship Breaking Yard was anthropocentric, Bangladesh Ship Recycling Act 2018 made it ecocentric, so that everything remains balanced in the ecology, and no living organism gains any harm.
The act was made and implemented very effectively, but, there are some gaps that need to be filled up. More people should be appointed for proper monitoring at the yard so that no illegal activity can take place. Bribery should be brought under control to control illegal ship making activity. User pays principle can be a good solution that will force the industrialists to pollute less. License should be rechecked to remove ship breaking companies with unethical practices.
Shipbreaking has great economic value in Bangladesh. This ship-breaking yard remains in the top 3 list every year for its extraordinary workforce with a huge amount of dismantling. Despite its positive value, the environmental degradation it causes is unbearable. Biodiversity, both aquatic and terrestrial, gets affected by the activities in the ship breaking yard. Because of the toxic ocean water, polluted air with mixed chemicals and different explosions biodiversity is getting wrecked. For this stressed out situation, only human beings are responsible and they are neither getting concerned nor assuaging the destruction. Once the destruction gets bigger, it will move forward to be the biggest.
Shangha Mitra Datta is a student at the North South University
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.