Friday, May 05, 2006

Greenie Meanies to the Poor; 'Drop Dead'?

Environmentalists got their way and the ship scrappers lost a chance to eke out a living:

ALANG, India.... Only a few years ago, Alang was the world's biggest ship-breaking yard, a place where aging cruise liners, fishing trawlers and toxic warships came to die and be torn apart, their parts and cargo sold for profit. Now, largely because of pressure from environmental groups, the town itself is dying.

The decision in February to turn away the Clemenceau, an asbestos-lined, decommissioned French aircraft carrier, has only brought more attention to the shipyard and caused a further drop in business, both for the companies that dismantle the ships and for ship profiteers...who sell what once was on board.

....In Alang, for example, workers still travel from across India for the chance to earn as much as $4.50 a day, breaking apart ships for 12 hours at a stretch. It's a good wage in India. It's also the only choice for many workers.

"It's for our survival," said Gama Yadav, who makes about $2.75 a day as a "cutter," taking apart steel hulls with a blowtorch. "What can we do? Back home, there's no work. There's no question of me being happy or sad. It's a question of me being able to eat."

In Alang, the numbers tell the story of a dying industry. In the fiscal year ended in June 1999 - the height of the ship-breaking business - 361 vessels came to Alang to be dismantled by 40,000 workers.

In the year ended in June 2005, 196 ships arrived.

And in the past four months, since the Clemenceau controversy heated up, only 33 ships have docked in Alang. About 3,500 people now work at the yard.

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