Experts and government representatives pledge to jointly tackle degradation of marine and coastal ecosystems in the country

Bhurban, June 13, 2016 (PPI-OT):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 ship breaking 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 realize 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,” Additional Secretary Ministry of Science and Technology, Muhammad Ashraf, stressed at a two-day national policy workshop on “Hazardous Waste Assessment for the Environmentally-Sound Management of Waste from Ship recycling in the Pakistan” here at a local hotel.

He, however, pointed out, that there was also a pressing need for setting standards and hammering out regulations in consultation with all relevant stakeholders for handling the waste from the ship-dismantling activities in a manner that no more damage 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 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, which include Basel, Rotterdam, Stockholm, Vienna Conventions and Montreal Protocol. 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.

Mr. Gilani further said that ship-dismantling fall 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 that to address the harmful effects of hazardous wastes and chemicals during the ship-recycling activities, 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 for a project.

This project focuses on the development of inventories of hazardous and non-hazardous wastes in the Gadani ship breaking yard, where ship recycling takes place, he explained and added that following the development of the inventories, business plans/cases would be rolled out to assist government and industry to 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 is not alone in the South Asia region as far as ship-recycling activities in environmentally-harmful manner is concerned.

“India and Bangladesh have not been fully able to have ship-dismantling activities in a scientific and environmental-friendly manner. Lack of technical and scientific expertise are major cause behind the grim state of ship-recycling in the region,” she said.

She informed the participants of the policy workshop that these countries including Pakistan were being fully supported in all possible manner by the relevant United Nation’s agencies to protect their marine and coastal ecologies from environmental degradation being caused by ship breaking activities.

Deputy Director (Chemical) climate change ministry, Dr. Zaigham Abbas briefed about the goals of the policy workshop. He said, Introducing the draft Hazardous Waste Assessment Report developed for the Gadani/Hub industrial region in Balochistan and elaborating on the preliminary conceptual design for hazardous waste management infrastructure in the region, the costing of such infrastructure and business cases for its development are key goals of the moot.

He highlighted that the climate change ministry is making all-out efforts to achieve goal of the environmental-safe management of hazardous waste as required by the Hong Kong Convention and the Basel Convention. Dr. Zaighan Abbas said as a result of the Ministry’s efforts the recycling yards would be expected to ensure that all hazardous materials present in ships for dismantling were properly identified, labelled, removed and packaged at the yard in a safe and environmentally sound manner.

“At present, the country currently does not have facilities for the treatment, storage and disposal of hazardous wastes in scientific and environmentally-safe manner from ship-recycling. But by dint of the project on the environmentally sound management of waste from ship-dismantling, these fundamental issues would be resolved,” he highlighted.

The workshop was attended, among others, by representatives of the relevant federal and provincial government departments, representatives of Pakistan Ship breaking Yard owners’ Association, environmentalists, policy experts, researchers, academicians and scientists, who discussed the severity of the threats to the marine ecology systems.

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