At Alang, in India, on a six-mile stretch of oily, smoky beach, 40,000 migrant workers tear apart, literally by hand, half of the world's discarded ships. This is one of the most dangerous industrial sites in the world. Every ship is a sump of toxic waste. If workers aren't killed on the job from explosions or falling objects, exposure to toxic waste, for many, will result in long-tern illness or early death.
The environmental impact has been devastating. Environmental and Human Rights Organizations are outraged. Yet shipbreaking has become a booming business for a few privileged shipyard owners in less developed countries such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Shipbreaking in less developed countries has become a major international concern.It remains extremely easy for a ship owner to circumvent existing laws that aim to protect developing countries from the dumping of toxic wastes. Environmental and human rights organizations argue that the International Maritime Organization or I.M.O., which is responsible for regulating the shipping industry, is not being held accountable for the human rights abuses and pollution caused by shipbreaking practices in South Asia today.
Ship breakers and local authorities argue that the economic benefits far outweigh the environmental degradation and occupational hazards. Do we all share in a global ecology? What are the responsibilities of all the stakeholders in a global economy? This industry serves an important short-term need, but where is the balance between environmental protection, human rights and commercial profits?