India temporarily bans French 'asbestos ship'

16th January 2006, Comments 0 comments

NEW DELHI, Jan 16, 2006 (AFP) - India's Supreme Court Monday banned an asbestos-laden French warship from entering the country's waters before February 13, when a ruling is due on whether it can be scrapped there, lawyers said.

NEW DELHI, Jan 16, 2006 (AFP) -  India's Supreme Court Monday banned an asbestos-laden French warship from entering the country's waters before February 13, when a ruling is due on whether it can be scrapped there, lawyers said.

The French decomissioned aircraft carrier Clemenceau is headed for India's ship-breaking yards in western Gujarat state, but environmental groups have charged that the asbestos onboard will threaten workers' health.

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

India's Supreme Court Monitoring Commission (SCMC) has given a preliminary thumbs-down to France this month but will issue its final recommendations before February 13.

Judges Arijit Praseyal and S.H. Kapadia on Monday took a tough line.

"Why should the ship be allowed in the country?" lawyers quoted one as saying. "There should be some mechanism by which we can turn it back."

The hearing was also attended by the new owner, Shree Ram Vessels' Private Ltd, which plans to scrap the ship at Gujarat's Alang ship-breaking yard.

Paris says the vessel is carrying 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 PCBs, lead, mercury and other toxic chemicals.

The watchdog group says most sea-going 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 — the former pride of the French navy — left the Mediterranean port of Toulon on December 31.

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

"The French aircraft carrier does not pose an environmental threat to Egypt," the environment ministry said in a statement that ended the deadlock.

The Egyptian government had accepted the French argument that the ship was still government property rather than scrap and that the aircraft carrier therefore did not fall under the Basel Convention.

Egypt's canal authority told AFP that a team of government officials were Monday due to board the warship for a routine inspection.

Lawyer Sanjay Parikh — acting for the interest group the Research Foundation for Science, which opposes the vessel's scrapping — said his legal battle was about more than keeping the aircraft carrier out of India.

"There should the same kind of treatment for all ships, whether they are warships or cargo carriers," Parikh said.

"If they are environmentally sound they should be allowed to reach our shores because, after all, their breaking generates 40,000 jobs," he said. "But, at the same time, we must see if we have enough landfills and infrastructure to absorb hazardous wastes which also come along."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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