France prepared to take back toxic waste from warship

The French ambassador to India has said his government would be prepared to take back any toxic waste remaining on warship the Clemenceau which is heading for the scrap yards of Alang.

Dirty business: ship breaking in the developing world. Picture courtesy of Greenpeace.

Dirty business: ship breaking in the developing world. Picture courtesy of Greenpeace.

The mammoth aircraft carrier has been at the centre of a controversy which has once again turned the global spotlight on the problem of the industrialised world dumping its waste on the developing world.

While the French authorities maintain they removed all possible toxic material from the redundant warship without damaging its seaworthiness for its final journey, environmentalists claim it still houses huge quantities of asbestos and other hazardous waste.

The EU has also waded into the debate, calling into question the legality of France's decision to export the ghost ship to India (see related story).

But on Wednesday ambassador Dominque Girard visited Alang where he told a news conference that if needs be France was prepared to take back all the toxic material still on board the ship.

Greenpeace, which has been spearheading the high-profile campaign against the ship, said this was not good enough.

"It's absolutely not good enough," Greenpeace toxics campaigner Jacob Artmann told edie.

"It's not just a question of asbestos and the other toxics, it's a question of removing it safely and in exactly the right way, and the ship need to be cut in a way that will ensure nobody dies while doing it.

"Alang is just not equipped to do that."

"There is no way France can justify dumping such a toxic load on the poorest of the poor in India."

"It's not only wrong in terms of morality and the environment, it's wrong in terms of EU and international legislation."

Mr Artmann said the argument that the remaining asbestos was required for structural integrity was a nonsense.

"It's a warship, a floating hangar, I think you'll find it's pretty stable," he said.

"And if any of that asbestos was needed for the structure, there would be no reason why you couldn't put in steel struts to replace it."

Meanwhile, Greenpeace has come under fire from right wing Hinud Shiv Sena party, which has organised counter demonstrations demanding the NGO keep its nose out of Indian business concerns and claiming its protests threaten much-needed jobs.

Mr Artmann claimed the protests had been organised by extremists and the financial arguments did not hold water.

"I'm not sure if you can ask people who are close to dying from poverty whether or not they want to take a dirty job," he said.

"We're not trying to stop the economy, we're trying to get them the right conditions to work with."

He said it was misleading to think the Clemenceau would bring prosperity to the region.

"The workers are getting paid very little," he said.

"What you have here is a few very rich people getting even richer.

"They must take the ship back to France and remove the toxic materials at the very least.

"There is no other justifiable thing to do."

By Sam Bond



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