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Parliament on Monday approved a legislation to regulate recycling of ships with a view to make India an attractive ship breaking destination to create employment while at the same time ensuring it does not become a dumping ground of the world. The Recycling of Ships Bill, 2019 was passed in Rajya Sabha by a voice vote on Monday.
Lok Sabha had cleared the bill last week. Replying to a debate in the Upper House, Shipping Minister Mansukh L Mandaviya told the members that the bill would protect the interest of labourers and would ensure environmentally sound recycling. The minister also assured them that India will not become a dumping ground for hazardous waste.
Ship recycling industry will grow with the passage of the bill and the number of ships to be recycled would double from 300 units being recycled currently, he said, adding it would help generate more employment. Allaying the fears of members regarding wages and work conditions at ship breaking sites, Mandaviya said the government held consultations with various stakeholders including labour unions as well as ship breaking industry associations and included some of their suggestions in the bill.
The minister added that all central and state labour laws apply to the recycling industry and minimum wages would be ensured. Citing example of Alang in Gujarat, he said the labourers there were already earning much more than the minimum wages. On future potential of the sector, the minister said currently 300 ships were being recycled in the country and the number is expected to double to 600 in a few years.
"We will get eco-friendly steel. Ships are not waste, they are wealth creators," he said, adding 95 per cent of the ships could be directly recycled. On concerns raised by the members regarding India becoming a dumping ground for hazardous waste, Mandaviya said adequate provisions are in place to check such proliferation. The law holds significance as India is the leader in the global ship recycling industry, with a share of over 30 per cent of the market. As per an UNCTAD report on Review of Maritime Transport, 2018, India had demolished 6,323 tonnes in 2017.
The Cabinet on November 20 had approved the proposals for enactment of the legislation. The bill provides for acceding to the Hong Kong International Convention for Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, 2009. When the Hong Kong International Convention for Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, 2009 comes into force, its provisions will be implemented under the provisions of the Recycling of Ships Bill, 2019 and rules and regulations framed there under.
The bill restricts and prohibits the use or installation of hazardous material, which applies irrespective of whether a ship is meant for recycling or not. For new ships, such restriction or prohibition on use of hazardous material will be immediate, that is, from the date the legislation comes into force. Existing ships will have a period of five years for compliance. Earlier, cutting across party lines, majority of Rajya Sabha members supported the bill but sought better safeguards for workers and environment.