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Bangladesh court bans ship-breaking yard leases

by Staff Writers
Dhaka (AFP) Sept 10, 2010
Bangladesh's high court has banned the lease of coastal land to ship-breaking yards, a lawyer said Friday, in a ruling welcomed by environmentalists who say the industry destroys fragile eco-systems.

About a third of the world's condemned ships are dismantled at about 100 sprawling shipyards on beaches leased from local authorities along Bangladesh's southeastern coastline.

"The court has ruled the government and local authorities cannot issue leases on beaches or coastal land for commercial purposes," Iqbal Kabir, of the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, which brought the case, told AFP.

The government will have to designate specific areas of coastline for ship-breaking, Kabir said, adding that the court also revoked leases of five new yards set up on forest department land last year.

"If this ruling is implemented, every business on any coastline, or river bank will have to shut down," said Aman Chowdhury, an advisor to the Bangladesh Ship Breakers Association, a leading industry body.

"We will contest the ruling in the Supreme Court, and we are confident we will win," he added.

Dismantling old ships is a major industry in Bangladesh, providing more than two-thirds of domestic steel and creating tens of thousands of jobs.

The court verdict on Thursday follows a Supreme Court ruling last month that said all ships scrapped in Bangladesh must be certified toxic-free by the selling nation's environmental authorities.

The government attempted to impose the standards in January but was forced to back down in April after lengthy strikes by shipyards. Iron prices shot up 20 percent when the breaking yards shut.

Environmental groups say labour safety and environmental standards are routinely ignored in the scrap yards, leading to the deaths of at least 300 workers in the past decade and massive pollution.

earlier related report
Nile barge sinks in Egypt, causing diesel spill: agency
Cairo (AFP) Sept 11, 2010 - A river barge sank on the Nile in Egypt's south on Saturday, causing a diesel spill that threatened drinking water in the area, the official MENA news agency reported.

Almost half of the 240 tonnes of fuel that was being transported by the vessel, owned by the Nile Company for River Transportation, leaked into the river at the city of Aswan, nearly 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) south of Cairo.

"All measures are being taken to clean up the leakage and ensure that drinking water supplies are safe," MENA quoted Aswan governor Mustafa al-Sayyed as saying.

The driver of the barge, Yasser Hussein, was later arrested, MENA reported, adding he had told police low water levels caused the vessel to tilt and in turn the diesel to leak.

Mohammed Mustafa, a top provincial official, said water supplies had been temporarily shut off for testing, but results proved drinking water in the region of Aswan was safe.

Mustafa said the spill would not have an impact on Nile river life.

"It's not a big spill. There are small spots of oil and, considering the size of the Nile, it will not affect the river environment," Mustafa told MENA.

In June, an oil spill off the Egyptian Red Sea coast of Hurghada threatened to damage marine life in the area.

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