South Asia failing to make shipbreaking environmentally friendly: UN officer
ISLAMABAD: Experts and government representatives on Monday pledged to jointly tackle degradation of marine and coastal ecosystems in the country caused by “environmentally-damaging and unsustainable” ship-recycling activities in the Gadani shipbreaking yard.
They also underlined the need for concerted policy measures to protect Pakistan’s marine and coastal ecosystems from further aggravation by ensuring that ship-recycling activities are carried out in a scientific and environment-friendly manner.
“We must realise that the environmentally-sound management of waste from the ship-breaking activities is inevitable to fight escalating coastal and marine pollution and the risks these have posed to the sustainability of the coastal and marine ecologies,” said experts.
While speaking at a workshop, Additional Secretary Ministry of Science and Technology Muhammad Ashraf pointed out that there also a need for setting standards and hammering out regulations in consultation with all relevant stakeholders for handling waste from the ship-dismantling activities in a manner that caused no more damage to the marine and coastal ecologies.
Joint Secretary Climate Change Ministry, Iftikhar-ul-Hassan Shah Gilani, said complacency in this regard was no option and urged all relevant government and non-governmental stakeholders to join the government’s efforts to address escalating sea pollution, which has badly eroded the country’s marine ecology.
“Pakistan is a signatory to a number of international Conventions and Protocols on various environmental issues, especially hazardous chemicals and wastes, including Basel, Rotterdam, Stockholm, Vienna and Montreal Protocols.
In the light of these conventions and protocols, the climate change ministry has already taken various policy measures for the protection and conservation of environment and natural resources. These policy measures have been lauded internationally,” he remarked.
Gilani further said that ship-dismantling fell under the purview of Basel Convention on the control of transboundary movement of hazardous waste and their disposal. Such dismantling activities, when not carried out in environmental safeguards generates different hazardous wastes such as asbestos, heavy metals, Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), hydrocarbons, ozone-depleting substances, waste oils, etc.
The joint secretary further told the participants to address the harmful effects of hazardous wastes and chemicals during shipbreaking. The Climate Change Ministry signed an MoU with the Secretariat of Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, under which the ministry was given financial support of US $ 279,843 per project.
This project focuses on the development of inventories of hazardous and non-hazardous wastes in the Gadani shipbreaking yard, where ship recycling takes place. He added that following the development of the inventories, business plans would be rolled out to assist government and industry in establish the requisite infrastructure for environmentally-safe ship-recycling.
Ms. Susan Wingfield, programme officer at the Geneva-based Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, said Pakistan was not alone in South Asia as far as ship-recycling activities in environmentally harmful manners was concerned.
“India and Bangladesh have been able to conduct ship-dismantling activities in a scientific and environmental-friendly manner. Lack of technical and scientific expertise is a major cause for the grim state of ship-recycling in the region,” she said. She informed the participants of the policy workshop that these countries, Pakistan included, were being fully supported by the relevant United Nation’s agencies to protect their marine and coastal ecologies from environmental degradation being caused by shipbreaking activities.
Climate Change Ministry Deputy Director (Chemical) Dr. Zaigham Abbas was briefed regarding the goals of the policy workshop. He highlighted that the climate change ministry was making all-out efforts to achieve the goals of the environmentally friendly management of hazardous waste, as required by the Hong Kong Convention and the Basel Convention.
The workshop was attended, among others, by representatives of the relevant federal and provincial government departments, representatives of Pakistan Shipbreaking Yard owners’ Association, environmentalists, policy experts, researchers, academicians and scientists, who elucidated the severity of the threats to the marine ecology systems.