India pollution watchdogs to check 'asbestos' ship

18th January 2006, Comments 0 comments

NEW DELHI, Jan 18, 2006 (AFP) - India has ordered pollution watchdogs to check if an asbestos-laden French warship set to enter its waters contains more than permissible limits of the hazardous material, officials said Wednesday.

NEW DELHI, Jan 18, 2006 (AFP) - India has ordered pollution watchdogs to check if an asbestos-laden French warship set to enter its waters contains more than permissible limits of the hazardous material, officials said Wednesday.

The announcement by Environment Minister A. Raja came two days after the Supreme Court barred the decommissioned aircraft carrier Clemenceau from entering Indian waters before February 13, when a ruling is due on whether it can be scrapped in the western state of Gujarat.

"The centre (federal government) has ordered the Central Pollution Control Board, Indian Maritime Organisation and the Gujarat State Pollution Control Board to check whether the ship has hazardous material and if found, the government will not allow it to touch Indian shores," Raja told a news conference.

The minister said there was "no question" of giving the go-ahead to the ship before the three watchdogs gave their reports. He did not set a deadline for the pollution boards to submit their findings.

"However, the matter will be decided by the Supreme Court and the government will abide by it," Raja said.

The Supreme Court Monitoring Commission gave a preliminary thumbs down to France this month but will issue its final recommendations before February 13.

Naresh Dayal, a senior environment ministry official, said the exercise was being conducted to determine whether the warship contained more asbestos than permitted by Indian laws.

Greenpeace and the group Ban Asbestos have accused France of breaching the 1989 Basel Convention banning the export of toxic waste.

France says the vessel carries 45 tonnes of asbestos insulation, but the firm that helped partially decontaminate it before the trip says the amount is between 500 and 1,000 tonnes.

Greenpeace charges that the 27,000-ton warship, due to be salvaged for its steel, is full of asbestos as well as other toxic chemicals.

The watchdog says most ships end their service at ship breaking yards in India, Bangladesh, China and Pakistan, where they are cut up by unprotected workers, taking a grim toll on human health and the environment.

The Clemenceau left the Mediterranean port of Toulon on December 31.

It was stranded for three days in international waters awaiting clearance to transit the Suez Canal, but Egypt on Sunday said it had received sufficient assurances from France and India to allow it to pass through.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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