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Supreme Court permits dismantling of "toxic ship"

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The Supreme Court permitted on Tuesday a controversial Norwegian cruise liner to be dismantled despite over a year of protests by environmentalists who say the ship is carrying toxic waste.

File photo of Norwegian cruise liner 'Blue Lady' anchored off the coast of Gujarat near the Alang shipyard, September 8, 2006. The Supreme Court on Tuesday permitted the ship to be dismantled despite over a year of protests by environmentalists who say it is carrying toxic waste. REUTERS/Amit Dave/Files

Environmentalists, including Greenpeace, say the 46,000-tonne Blue Lady contains more than 900 tonnes of toxic waste like asbestos, risking the health of poorly equipped workers at the Alang ship-breaking yard in Gujarat.

In June last year, the court allowed the Blue Lady to enter Indian waters but ruled that it remain anchored off the coast of Gujarat while a legal battle between environmentalists and the ship’s owner and the country’s ship-breaking industry ensued.

The court appointed an expert committee to provide guidelines on how to safely dismantle all ships that come to India.

“Since the court has accepted the technical expert committee report, we permit the Blue Lady to be dismantled,” said Supreme Court judge S.H. Kapadia.

Kapadia said the dismantling of the ship must be overseen by the district collector, the senior-most bureaucrat in the district.

According to the expert committee, the demolition of the ship should follow certain procedures to ensure worker safety.

This includes decontamination before the breaking down of the ship as well as proper disposal of any toxic waste.

In February last year, the French government recalled the former aircraft carrier Clemenceau, which had been heading for Alang, after a lengthy campaign by Greenpeace, which said the ship carried toxic waste.

Greenpeace says Indian shipyards like Alang lack new technology to safely handle toxic waste in ships they scrap.

A report by the group in 2005 said thousands of workers in the ship-breaking industry in countries such as India, China and Pakistan may have died over the past two decades due to exposure to toxic waste or in accidents.