THE news that a ship carrying toxic substances is about to enter into Bangladesh's territorial waters has created the right degree of fear in this country. The relevant ministries, as the reports said, are determined to ensure that this ship cannot in any way come near coastal areas of the country to fulfill its mission. The ship, S S Norway, has been trying ceaselessly to find a host country for berthing to dispose off its toxic cargoes. But worldwide, the environmental groups have successfully resisted its plan with their networks in different countries rendering a commendable service of alerting the administration of such countries. It was reported that a ship breaker of Chittagong was trying to buy the ship at a cost of $12 million for the ship breaking industry. How this person could even try to go through the official formalities of doing this with full information of the consequences of the same for the environment of his country, poses a question. If such persons will not have a conscience or the necessary morality to practise self-restraint in these matters, then they need to be deterred from their evil acts by necessary tough penal measures that should include penalties for even attempting such activities and not only for carrying them out.
This is also not for the first time that Bangladeshis have known about moves to bring in ships laden with toxic cargoes into this country. In fact, there is an underground international trade in disposing off toxic wastes. Companies of some developed countries often hire old ships and fill them with highly hazardous wastes from the perspective of human health and allow them to sail round the world. The operators of such ships then contact receivers in poor developing countries to let these ships anchor in their ports and take deliveries of the toxic cargoes which are later tried to be disposed off by the receivers by burying under the soil, burning or other methods. But such disposals are not recommended for their ineffectiveness and that is the reason why the countries that allow loading of such cargoes in the first place remain so eager to send them out to other countries for disposal and do not permit the same in their own countries. The environment of some African countries were known to suffer from toxic wastes disposal that contained even radioactive wastes that can cause cancer and other deadly deformities in humans. Sometimes such ships do not actually anchor in a country but enter its territorial waters, unload or discharge the wastes in the waters and then depart. The coastal waters of that country can get severely polluted from such uconscionable acts. Bangladesh has so far successfully foiled several attempts to bring in toxic wastes into the country for disposal. But it is not known how far successful it has been in stopping the dumping of such wastes in the seas near to it. But a large part of the seas around Bangladesh are its exclusive economic zone and, therefore, it must try and protect any harm to it through stepped-up surveillance.
In the eighties, a daily newspaper of Bangladesh exposed the activities of some profit hungry importers of radioactive milk. The incentives for them was very cheap import of such poisonous milk to make super profits. They tried to import radioactive milk powder from some East European countries after the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster in Russia. That move was frustrated but it indicated the need to maintain constant vigilance, always, to head off the entry of toxic substances. Such vigilance or the lack of it can mean life or death to the numerous unprotected people of the country.