Stakeholders have pledged to join government’s efforts for achieving Sustainability of ship-breaking activities while ensuring conservation and protection of coastal and marine ecosystems in the coastal areas of the country.

They said that today coastal and marine ecosystems were exposed to an escalating contamination of seawater and marine ecology because of the ship-dismantling activities, which are carried out not in conformity with environmental safeguards, they emphasized at a national consultative policy workshop on Sustainable and Environmentally-Sound Management of Waste from Ship-Recycling In Pakistan.

Role of investors in ship-breaking activities and owners of the Gadani Ship-breaking yards was vital to the conservation efforts, Muhammad Ashraf, additional secretary at the ministry of science and technology, highlighted in his keynote speech to the participants of the consultative workshop. He said, “Thousands of tonnes of hazardous waste was piling up at Gadani shipbreaking yard in Balochistan’s coastal area, which badly harmed the marine ecosystem, overall environment, the life of workers at the shipbreaking yards and those live around the area, environmentalist,”

“There is a pressing need to put in place facilities in consultation with relevant stakeholders to handle hazardous waste in scientific and environmentally-safe manner to save shipbreaking activities from any punitive action/ban under the European Union’s certain regulations,” Ms. Susan Wingfield told the workshop participants, who is programme officer at the Geneva-based Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.

She pointed out that the main reason behind the growth of shipbreaking industry in Pakistan is comparatively low cost of labour, weak implementation of laws pertaining to environmental protection, workers’ rights.“Yet, we would help Pakistan in all possible ways to save its marine and coastal ecologies by making the ship-breaking activities environmentally-safe.

Joint Secretary (International Cooperation), the Climate Change Ministry, Iftikhar-ul-Hasan Shah Gilani said the basic responsibility for clean and safe ship recycling lies with the ship owners, who have commercially benefited from vessels.“Therefore, they must show their will and play their part in achieving the goal of ship-dismantling activities environmentally-safe,” he stressed.

The joint secretary Mr. Gilani highlighted that the present government is committed to making shipbreaking industry a ‘green’ and environmentally-safe by following the mechanized system of dismantling in compliance with available legislative frameworks i.e. (Hong Kong and Basel convention) without harming employment of workers.

“To achieve this, the climate change ministry is in touch with all relevant government and non-governmental stakeholders for their pragmatic views and suggestions,” he said.

Dr. Mahmood Khawaja, senior adviser on chemicals and sustainable industrial development at the sustainable Development Policy Institute emphasised need for a viable environment-friendly ship-recycling strategy. Efforts must be made to address the policy and governance related matters of environmental and social aspects of Ship-breaking industry, which require serious considerations at this critical point of time.

Expert on environmentally safe shipbreaking business model development at Sofies Consultancy firm, Mr. David Martin, shed light on the Hazardous Waste Assessment Report for Gadani/Hub industrial region and environmentally sound management of waste from ship recycling. He said that having environmentally sound management of waste from ship recycling system at the Gadani shipbreaking yards in Balochistan’s coastal area will help reduce environmental degradation and risks to marine ecosystem and lower health costs of the workers.

Mr. Saleem Uz Zaman, senior national consultant for the environmentally-safe shipbreaking activities in Pakistan Programme, highlighted the challenge of tackling hazardous waste generated as a resulted of dismantling of old ships at the Gadani shipbreaking yard.

He told the workshop participants, Pakistan still does not have any defined Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to deal with hazardous wastes and other materials retrieved from ships. To make matters worse, hazardous waste from ship-breaking activity has been accumulating over the years in Gadhani. However, there was serious need for identifying proper landfill sites for burying the poisonous hazardous waste, the consultant Saleem uz Zaman said.

Prof. Shyam Asolekar at the Centre for environmental science and engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, talked about common hazardous waste, its treatment, storage and safe disposal issues in South Asia region.He said that installation of efficient waste treatment plants and effective environmental monitoring are of unprecedented significance to reduce risk from ship breaking activities to the local marine and coastal ecosystems.

Professor Muhammad Irfan Khan of the Islamic University, Islamabad, shed light EU ship-recycling regulations enforced in 2013. He said that these regulations ask European Commission to establish a global list of ship recycling facilities that comply with the requirements of the Regulations. He said, “To avoid punitive santions on dismantling of European ships in Pakistan, Pakistani yards either need to move their operations off the beach or upgrade both occupational health & safety standards as well as downstream waste management to meet these standards to avail the opportunities to dismantle vessels flying the flag of an EU Member State in the future.”

Earlier, Deputy Director (Chemical), Ministry of Climate Change, Dr. Zaigam Abbas, talked about scope and socio-economic and environmental benefits of the environmentally-sound shipbreaking activities in the country. He said it is matter of concern that at present there was neither any collection system for hazardous waste nor provision of health and safety standards for the worker during ship dismantling.

“Given the seriousness of the environmentally-unsound ship-dismantling activities, the ministry has lauded efforts to develop the inventories of hazardous waste and other waste at ship breaking industry at Gadani, Balochistan. Efforts are also being taken to develop downstream hazardous waste management capacity in Pakistan,” he told the participants.