Watchdog panel raps France over toxic warship
MUMBAI, Jan 6 (AFP) - An Indian Supreme Court panel accused France on Friday of violating an international treaty on hazardous waste movement by sending an asbestos-laden warship to be scrapped in an Indian shipyard. But the environmental watchdog body said it needed two weeks more to get a "clear picture" and decide whether to recommend allowing the warship to proceed to the world's largest ship-breaking yard in Alang in western Gujarat state. "The country which has sent the ship to India is not observ
MUMBAI, Jan 6 (AFP) - An Indian Supreme Court panel accused France on Friday of violating an international treaty on hazardous waste movement by sending an asbestos-laden warship to be scrapped in an Indian shipyard.
But the environmental watchdog body said it needed two weeks more to get a "clear picture" and decide whether to recommend allowing the warship to proceed to the world's largest ship-breaking yard in Alang in western Gujarat state.
"The country which has sent the ship to India is not observing the Basel Convention on movement of hazardous waste," G. Thyagrajan, chairman of the Supreme Court Commission on Hazardous Wastes, told reporters in Mumbai.
The treaty outlaws the transfer of dangerous materials from one country to another.
"The ship should not be allowed to enter (Indian waters) until a final view is taken," he said, adding a recommendation will be made "in two weeks time."
The case has stirred an international outcry among environmentalists who have accused France of using India as a dumping ground for toxic substances.
The aircraft carrier, Clemenceau, which was insulated with asbestos, is being towed to India to be broken up for scrap. The voyage, which began last weekend, could take up to two months.
The panel chief also noted at the news conference contradictory information about the amount of asbestos aboard the vessel.
"The information regarding the asbestos is varying ... and therefore we need more information to take a final decision," he said. "People have not been transparent in disclosure of information."
The French defence ministry said Thursday the ship contained no more than 45 tonnes of asbestos.
Its statement came after Jean-Claude Giannino, an official of Technopure, one of the firms contracted by the French government to remove a large amount of asbestos from the ship before sending it to India, said the vessel still contained 500 to 1,000 tonnes of asbestos.
Earlier this week, the panel chairman signalled a tough stand on the vessel, saying his position was "that there should be no import and no export of hazardous substances and no exceptions to that rule."
In an interview with The Hindu newspaper, he said, "we expect that countries ... such as France who are signatories to the Basel Convention have a moral responsibility to ensure that they do not allow anything containing hazardous materials to be sent to friendly countries."
International environmental group Greenpeace has branded France's move to send the 24,200 tonne aircraft carrier to India "a symbol of the developed world's arrogant assumption that India can be a recipient for their refuse."
Greenpeace India spokesman Ramapati Kumar welcomed "the panel's observation that the ship is undesirable and needs to be kept out of Indian waters."
"We also appreciate that the panel recognised that allowing the ship in Indian waters will violate the Basel convention," he told AFP.
The panel's statement came after representatives of Technopure appeared before it.
Greenpeace and three other groups have tried for months to block the transfer on grounds that Indian shipyard workers are not properly protected from the hazards of working with asbestos, which can cause fatal lung diseases.
They also say it will pollute the environment.
But another environmental group, Robin des Bois or Robin Hood, has argued France acted responsibly by undertaking 90 percent of the asbestos decontamination work itself — a first for European shipping.
The Clemenceau, which was commissioned in 1961 and took part in the 1991 Gulf War, was taken out of service six years later when it was superseded by the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle.
Greenpeace said the ship had already been rejected by Turkey and Greece and the Indian government's "passive acceptance of this dumping is certainly not in keeping with the country's growing international stature."
Subject: French news