An Indian environmental panel is divided on whether to allow a decommissioned French warship to be scrapped in India, and has not made a firm recommendation to the the nation's Supreme Court
NEW DELHI An Indian environmental panel is divided on whether to allow a decommissioned French warship to be scrapped in India, and has not made a firm recommendation to the the nation's Supreme Court, a member said on Tuesday.
The Supreme Court's Monitoring Committee on Hazardous Wastes had been asked to prepare a report for the top court, which will take a decision on Feb. 13 on whether to allow the decommissioned aircraft carrier, Clemenceau, to be broken down in India.
But the panel split into two camps, each of which has submitted its own report to the court this week.
"There are two reports. One says we have no objection (to the ship's scrapping in India) but attaches stringent conditions," the panel member, who did not want to be named, told Reuters.
"The other report says no. But both are safeguarding the country's interests and not that of France," he said.
Seven members of the panel had no objection to the ship being scrapped in the western shipyard of Alang as long it was done under strict supervision, while three members were opposed to it. One member did not vote at the panel's final meeting on Monday.
Last month, the top court barred the 27,000-tonne ship from entering the country's waters until it studied the panel's recommendations and delivered a final verdict.
The carrier -- which served in the 1991 Gulf war -- left France in December for Alang sparking protests from environmental groups such as Greenpeace, which says the vessel is laden with hundreds of tonnes of hazardous materials, including 500 tonnes of toxic asbestos which poses a risk to workers at Alang.
French authorities said the most dangerous work of removing 115 tonnes of brittle asbestos had been done in France but the remaining 45 tonnes of asbestos could not be removed until the ship was broken up.
Greenpeace says the ship also contains polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) which are more difficult to remove than inbuilt asbestos and that India has no facility to handle the removal of these cancer-causing chemicals.
"The French are lying about the asbestos and using it as a smokescreen to hide the several tonnes of PCBs and other toxics onboard the Clemenceau," Greenpeace said in a statement.
But the French ambassador to India said Paris was being completely upfront about the Clemenceau.
"We have had a totally transparent approach to this issue and we have very good contacts with the Indian government on that," Dominique Girard told CNN-IBN TV in footage aired on Tuesday.
"We've been very keen to satisfy all the desires and requirements of the supreme court and the (monitoring) committee," he said. "I don't see any problems".
The envoy has said French experts will oversee the scrapping of the Clemenceau in Alang to ensure it is done safely.
Greenpeace in a report published in December said thousands of workers involved in the shipbreaking industry in countries such as India, Pakistan and China were likely to have died due to exposure to toxic waste or accidents over the past 20 years.
The controversy comes ahead of a visit by French President Jacques Chirac later this month to New Delhi, aimed at boosting diplomatic, military and energy ties.
(Additional reporting by Bhagwan Singh in CHENNAI)