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Ship-breaking needs to be sustainable

  • Published at 11:00 pm February 9th, 2020
Ship breaking
File photo of workers at a ship-breaking yard Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Ship-breaking has always been a highly risky job

Bangladesh retaining the top spot in the global ship-breaking industry -- it dismantled 234 ships in 2019 -- is good news for the economy and our overall economic ambitions as a nation.

However, while the industry is indeed providing a boost to our economy at large, it is time to take a step back and assess its impact, not just from an economic point of view, but also the human and environmental cost associated with it.

To that end, it is extremely unfortunate that our ship-breaking industry -- in its current state -- simply does not align with Bangladesh’s long-term vision of sustainable development.

Ship-breaking has always been a highly risky job, and it is disheartening to learn that 24 workers were killed on the job in 2019, which was the highest number of fatalities for the decade. 

Workers are also at risk of contracting several deadly diseases because of the toxic fumes and contaminated material released during the operations.

It is about time the owners of these ship-breaking yards follow safety standards.

The fact that the workers are not even provided with proper respiratory equipment to protect themselves is simply unacceptable.

Moreover, we have lost approximately 60,000 mangrove trees along our coast over the last few years to make space for these ships. These mangrove trees are protected, and act as an integral part of keeping our ecosystem balanced while also protecting us from natural disasters such as cyclones.

As an economy which wants to hit certain economic benchmarks, we may be tempted to do all that is possible to chase growth numbers.

However, we would do well to look at the human and environmental damage incurred by some of our industries. We must become a robust and sustainable economy, which cares about the nation at large from all points of view.