New law for ship-breaking industry
The piece of legislation that the Jatiya Sangsad late last week adopted to discipline the country's ship-breaking industry has been long overdue. Notwithstanding its importance in the economy and the risks that it poses, when unregulated, to the environment, the governmental efforts were too scanty for streamlining the ship recycling industry that has flourished along the coastline of Chittagong since early 1980s. The industry that now employs hundreds of workers and makes available more than half of the basic raw materials to the re-rolling mills, is one of the largest in the world.
However, the industry did not originate locally and grow spontaneously. When the cost of ship-breaking had gone abnormally high in the developed countries, ship owners chose the developing countries like China, Vietnam, the Philippines and Bangladesh to scrap their vessels because of low cost of labour and lack of concern about environment and safety issues in these countries. In Bangladesh, the local entrepreneurs took the advantage of the situation. They started importing increasing number of old vessels for dismantling along the coastline. However, the relevant agencies, from time to time, issued a few rules to help contain environmental damage and ensure safety requirements. But the enforcement of such rules, whatever these were, was very lax.
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