Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
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Field Project Assessment
Environmental, social and cultural implications of a ship breaking industry, Alang-Sosiya, Gujarat, India
Short reference: Alang-Sosiya Ship Breaking Yard (ASSBY)

Date of
10-14th December, 2001.
Assessment completed, 16th April 2002.
conducted by
Mr. Derek Elias, UNESCO-CSI, Paris (not closely associated with the project).
Mr. H. Dube, Head, Department of Life Sciences, University of Bhavnagar (Field project leader);
Mr. R. Jayakumar, UNESCO Office, New Delhi;
Mr. Vidyut Joshi, Director, Centre for Social Studies, South Gujarat University;
Mr. Suman Chaudhary, University of Bhavnagar;
Mr. Somnath Bandyopadhyay, Gujarat Ecology Commission;
(all closely associated with the project)

In addition to the work of the team mentioned above, the depth and quality of the assessment was considerably enhanced by the contributions of two postgraduate students at the University of Bhavnagar, Ms. Misha Vyas and Ms. Rupa Desai Abdi, as well as Mr. Jagdish Ganatra.     

  1. UNESCO-CSI Pilot Project on Coastal Management of Alang and Sosia Ship Breaking Yard. Report on Phase 1 of Project (Environmental Analysis) undertaken between February 1999 and January 2000.

  2. Report of the 2 day workshop to plan second phase of the Pilot Project on coastal management. 27-28 July 2000, Bhavnagar, Gujarat.

  3. Sustainable Development of Alang-Sosiya Ship Breaking Yard. Report on Phase 2 of Project (Stakeholder Issues) undertaken between October 2000 and May 2001.

  4. Field Project Summary (Revised 2nd November 2001).

  5. Major postings on the Wise Coastal Practices Forum: (user name =csi, password = wise) 
  6. Extract from CSI info 10: Making Unsustainable Development Sustainable: The case of the Alang Ship-   Breaking Industry in Gujarat, H.C. Dube.

The project assessment of ASSBY was undertaken on the ground between 10th - 14th December 2001, at the ship breaking yard and its immediate environs as well as the University of Bhavnagar.

Discussions, meetings and interviews held in Bhavnagar: 

  • Preliminary discussion of project, arrangements for assessment and 3rd Phase (Water Contract) activities were held with the all members of the project team at the University of Bhavnagar.

  • Follow-up meeting with Mr. Bhavin Shah, Vice-President of Gujarat Ship Breakers Association and Mr. Nitin Kanakiya of Triveni Ship Breakers.

  • Further discussions with project team members at University of Bhavnagar.

  • Final meeting with ship breakers, Mr. Bhavin Shah and Mr. Nitin Kanakiya, and with Mr. N. K. Vithani, Secretary of the Gujarat Ship Breakers Association.

  • Interview with Dr. Bandyopadhyay of the Gujarat Ecology Commission including discussion of regional projects and the ASSBY assessment.

  • Interviews with Capt. Y. P. Deulkar, Port Officer, and Mr. G. R. Jadeja, Civil Engineer, of the Gujarat Maritime Board.

  • Preparation of draft assessment and discussion of future activities with partners at the University of Bhavnagar.

Interviews and inspections at ASSBY: 

  • Inspection of the ship breaking yard at Alang-Sosiya.

  • Interview and inspection of the ship breaking plot leased by Mr. Bhavin Shah, Vice-President of the Gujarat Ship Breakers Association.

  • Interview and inspection of the ship breaking plot leased by Mr. Devang Nagarsheth. This plot is held jointly with his father Mr. Pravin Nagarsheth, President of the Iron Steel Scrap & Ship Breakers Association of India.

  • Discussion of working conditions and issues with a group (about two dozen) of migrant workers at a luncheon stall.

Visits to local environs: 

  • Visit to Jaspara village and meeting with village head Mrs. Nirmala Ba and village elders.

  • Visit to Manar School and interview with Mr. Ranesh, schoolteacher.

  • Inspection of khodas (shops selling items recycled/recovered) and interview with a manag er.

  • Visit to workshop overhauling and re-selling turbines and generators recovered from ship breaking activities.

Constraints: A number of constraints were encountered in carrying out this first project assessment:
  1. The unfortunate passing away of Shri Niranjanbhai Vyas, the Chairman of the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) on December 8, 2001. The staff of the GMB, including Port Officer, Capt.Y. P. Deulkar, made every effort to assist the assessment team but were understandably preoccupied with other commitments.
  2. Mr. Vidyut Joshi, Mr. H.C. Dube and Mr. Somnath Bandyopadhyay, due to prior commitments, only had limited time that they could devote to the assessment.

Field Project Assessment

The sixteen characteristics, used to define ‘wise practices’, are used here to assess this field project.  A qualitative scale is used as follows:

None  (0): The field project activities to date do not comply with this characteristic and/or the characteristic is not relevant.
Slightly (1-3): The field project activities to date have begun in some preliminary way to satisfy  this characteristic.
Partially (4-6): The field project activities to date have gone some significant way towards fulfilling this characteristic.
Fully (7-9): The field project activities to date have gone the full way to complying with  this characteristic.  

This assessment is based only on the activities undertaken to date, and does not include those planned for the future.

Have the project activities ensured long term benefit?  

Partially (6)

Unplanned and unregulated ship breaking activities commenced in 1983 on the beaches opposite the villages of Alang and Sosiya in the state of Gujarat, India. Threats of sanctions, heavy criticism of environmental and social problems, and increased competition from yards in Bangladesh, China, Pakistan and Taiwan have not prevented ASSBY from continuing to be one of the largest ship breaking yards in the world.  Nevertheless, there has been a substantial reduction in the number of operational plots from 160 (out of a potential 182) in 1996, to 80 at the end of 2001. It is important to note, that in India, government policy for comparatively new and novel industries such as ship breaking is developed from practice and experience.

Through dialogue with the four stakeholder groups (Gujarat Maritime Board, ship breakers, local villagers and workers) the project has led to a better understanding and some improvement of the problems posed by environmental pollution, poor health and working conditions, and the lack of basic infrastructure and services. Convergence and dialogue are the keys for success in this process. This is acknowledged by all of the stakeholder groups who have displayed a willingness to address problems. Critically there has been awareness-raising, changes in attitudes, and action which has had a role to play in improving safety conditions for workers, recycling of hazardous products, solid waste management and the provision of basic health services.

Any long term benefit is ensured through an institutionalisation of the project efforts. However, the dialogue amongst the stakeholders is but the first step towards establishment of a meaningful forum for interaction.

Do the project activities provide for capacity building and institutional strengthening?

Partially (6)

The project activities are contributing to capacity building by changing the attitudes of the stakeholder groups to one another and encouraging understanding and mutual support through discussion. The project activities have contributed and helped to inform some modest improvements in the fields of education, housing, water supply, health services, occupational training, accommodation and waste management. Further stakeholder meetings and workshops are envisaged in order to capitalise on these initiatives and to strengthen both local and regional institutions. Such measures will need to be supported by policy intervention at the central and state government levels that may necessitate a focused attempt towards institutionalisation and development of norms through a participatory process.

Are the project activities sustainable? Partially (5)

The activities have gone a long way in raising awareness and instituting dialogue between the stakeholder groups but will need further development to be established as an independent and on-going process. At present the activities are still, to some extent, dependent upon the partners at the University of Bhavnagar. However, there are some indications from representatives of each of the stakeholder groups that the activities are steadily coming close towards being fully sustainable. Although it is unlikely the project activities will become fully sustainable until a mechanism to continue dialogue is tested and put into place.

Have the project activities been transferred?

Slightly (3)

 The project activities and the industry at ASSBY are unique. There are ongoing discussions concerning the establishment of other ship breaking yards in the Gulf of Kachchh and with some adaptation and modification the activities may be transferred e.g. Sachana, where a number of ship breakers from ASSBY have already commenced operations. Differences in the industrial, political, economic, social and environmental contexts between ship breaking yards within the Asian region do not easily lend themselves to simple transfer of project activities. A delegation of ship breakers has travelled to both Bangladesh and Pakistan to view activities at other yards and the project needs to examine how activities at ASSBY may be successfully transferred.

Are the project activities interdisciplinary and intersectoral?

Fully (7)

The project activities involve several different disciplines including the natural sciences: environmental science, hydrology, marine biology and ecology; and the social sciences: sociology and economics. The activities at ASSBY also involve several different sectors of society including government officials and agencies, private industry and business, academic research institutions, the migrant workers and the villagers. There may also be room for the further involvement of local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and women’s associations in particular. Further attention could be focused on the social and economic circumstances of the migrant workers.

Do the project activities incorporate participatory processes?

Partially (5)

A participatory process has been initiated, however, its success is limited because the lead role and instigator of the process remains the University of Bhavnagar and the process has not been transferred to another level or group. The ability of workers to participate in the project is constrained by their lack of effective representation, a result of the absence of permanent employment and their floating population. It is this stakeholder group that is the least involved in the participatory process. It is a unique challenge and needs to be addressed in an innovative manner.

Do the project activities provide for consensus building?

Slightly (3))

The difficulties facing consensus building are considerable given the divergent economic, cultural, social and legal positions of the four stakeholder groups. These obstacles to consensus building are further compounded by the nature of two of the stakeholder groups. The local villages (10 in all) experience the impacts of ASSBY in different ways depending on factors such as economic base, livelihoods and their geographical proximity to the yards and associated businesses. As a result they have divergent perspectives concerning the development of ASSBY. 

Consideration of intra-group consensus building amongst the migrant workers, primarily from the states of Bihar, Orissa and Uttar-Pradesh, poses a number of problems revolving around the issue of communication. There exist considerable differences between workers on the basis of language, culture, religion, caste and work experience which combine to produce an overall lack of political organization. 

The biggest challenge facing consensus building is to devise an appropriate mechanism and platform for communication to regularly bring the stakeholder groups together to discuss issues of mutual concern. Critically, ship breaking is a business and thus market forces are most effective in regulating the interests and behaviour of the stakeholders, in particular, the ship breakers. More attention should be accorded to how the project activities can capitalize on these forces to realise project goals.

Do the project activities include an effective and efficient communication process?

Slightly (3)

In terms of communication within and between stakeholder groups, and the provision and distribution of information to these groups as well as the local media, the project activities have been successful. However, further work remains to be undertaken in order to encourage communication between the various stakeholders themselves in addition to the provision of feedback and information to the project partners at the University of Bhavnagar. A critical task to be undertaken is to address the means for effective communication and dialogue, which needs to ensure the increased involvement and participation of workers and policy makers.

Are the project activities culturally respectful?

Fully (7)

The project activities address the fact that there are considerable cultural variations within the three major groups of migrant workers and within the broader cultural milieu of the State of Gujarat. The activities are sensitive to the considerable variation within the working cultures of the four stakeholder groups at ASSBY. The conflicts and tensions between locals and the different migrant worker groups need further analysis.

Do the project activities take into account gender and/or sensitivity issues?

Partially (4)

In terms of sensitivity issues, the cultural backgrounds of people living and working at ASSBY are taken into account by the project activities. Successfully incorporating gender issues poses a number of problems given the small percentage of women employed at ASSBY and the difficulty of ensuring their effective representation. The most serious gender issue of concern is the rise in the incidence of the number of women involved in the sex industry and the increased risk in the distribution of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Do the project activities strengthen local identities?

Slightly (2)

In India identities are based on the interplay between an individual’s caste, religion and livelihood. ASSBY is clearly having a major impact on the generation of income for villagers who have found new forms of employment in transport, business and the provision of infrastructure and services. An analysis of potential changes to local identity can only be properly assessed over a considerable period of time and will be substantially affected by the duration of the yard itself and the interactions between local people and migrant workers.

Do the project activities shape national legal policy?

Partially (4)

There remains a considerable amount of work to be done in terms of addressing legal and industrial policies and laws concerning the ship breaking industry in India. Currently the industry is regulated by the adaptation and amalgamation of existing legislation including customs and taxation as well as the Factory Act (1968), the Labour Act (1962) and the Law and Order Act. The National Labour Commission is currently reviewing both the Factory and Labour Acts and has already visited ASSBY. It is widely acknowledged that a broader sectoral response to the activities at ASSBY could involve other intergovernmental agencies and NGOs to inform policy makers. Guidelines have been prepared by GMB, based on the existing laws mentioned above, which could be improved through a process of consultation with stakeholders and experts. Therefore, ASSBY has the potential to influence national legal policy.

Do the project activities encompass the regional dimension?

None (0)

Due to the nature of the ship breaking industry at ASSBY and differences between practices and experiences of other yards within both India and Asia, there are considerable obstacles to encompassing a regional dimension. The most significant regional dimension is economic and there is a need for this to be addressed more fully.

Do the project activities provide for human rights?

Partially (6)

The project activities have gone a considerable way in drawing attention and responses to the basic rights of access to clean drinking water, adequate shelter, satisfactory labour conditions and issues of health and safety. These are addressed under Articles 22-25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Articles 6, 7, 8 and 11 of the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Have the project activities been documented?

Fully (9)

The project activities have been fully documented (see list at the beginning of the summary) and have also been the subject of numerous dissertations of post-graduate students at the University of Bhavnagar.

Have the project activities been evaluated?

None (0) 

This present evaluation is the first such exercise.

Synthesis of main issues from the assessment 

  1. The scope of the project needs to be expanded in terms of the involvement of stakeholder groups, this includes the Gujarat and Central Governments as well as NGOs.

  2. The project should develop a permanent forum for dialogue between the stakeholders.

Revised Future Project Activities   

  1. Disseminate the results of the UNESCO-CSI initiative among other projects, agencies and governments working in the region of ASSBY (including the Indian and Gujarati ministries and authorities; Government of the Netherlands Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water; India Canada Environment Facility; International Labour Organization; and the World Bank). This will include a workshop/seminar with stakeholders and the University of Bhavnagar with the following invitees:

Ministry of Ports
Departments of Ocean Development, Government of India
Department of Science and Technology, Government of India
Department of Ports and Fisheries, Government of Gujarat
Gujarat Ecology Commission
Indian Institute of Management
Iron Steel Scrap & Ship Breakers Association of India
Metallurgical and Engineering Consultants (India) Ltd.(MECON)
National Institute of Oceanography
National Environmental Engineers Research Institute
Ferrous Scrap Committee – Government of India

  1. In consultation with other agencies, and with the direct participation of the four stakeholder groups, initiate a mechanism that will involve effective representation of all four stakeholder groups in a process of dialogue to address issues and reduce conflicts at ASSBY, on a regular basis. This will be in the nature of a ‘wise practices agreement’ (a voluntary agreement between the stakeholder groups). This ‘wise practices agreement’ will have as its goal the prevention and resolution of conflicts, and will also inform policy makers. 

  2. Preparation of a CSI publication that documents the activities of the project so far, including a synthesis of the first two comprehensive reports produced by the project team at the University of Bhavnagar concerning the environment and stakeholder issues.

  3. The current Water-Phase contract activities (scheduled for completion in June 2002) provide for the following:

Introduction Activities Publications Search
Wise Practices Regions Themes