Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
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Coastal region and small island papers 12: papers

THE LATENT ROLE OF RESEARCH IN CONFLICT MANAGEMENT AT THE ALANG SOSIYA SHIP-BREAKING YARD

by Vidyut Joshi 

Introduction 

The Alang-Sosiya Ship-Breaking Yard (ASSBY) located in the Gulf of Cambay in the Bhavnagar District of Gujarat State in India is the biggest ship-breaking yard in Asia with 182 plots. The continental shelf and the large tidal range make it possible to bring big ships ashore during spring tide and beach them on shore. ASSBY has become known the world over, not only for fast development, but also for the development-induced problems.

The stakeholders

Different groups of people, depending on their positions, could have different and sometimes clashing interests in a project the size of ASSBY. Four different stakeholders have been identified at ASSBY: government, industrialists or ship-breakers, villagers and workers. 

Government - Gujarat Maritime Board 

The Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) is the shore-based coastal zone authority of the Government of Gujarat. It manages the affairs of all the ports except Kandla. Thus, the ASSBY area is also under the jurisdiction of GMB. It was through GMB that the Alang site was identified, after an intensive survey, as the most suitable place for a ship-breaking activity. Since then it came under the direct management and monitoring of the GMB authority. The issues for GMB for the sustainable development of ASSBY are:

Industrialists (Ship-breakers)

All the ship-breakers are first generation breakers who have learnt ship-breaking through trial and error. They lack knowledge of the science and technology related to the ship-breaking industry. Moreover, this is a heterogeneous group which has not yet developed a business culture suitable to this enterprise. This is a highly un-organized industry. Their main issues are:

The villagers 

There are around ten villages in the vicinity of ASSBY. They are Alang, Sosiya, Manar, Sathara, Kathwa, Bharapara, Mathavada, Takhatgadh (chopda), Jasapara and Mandva. All these villages are on the coast and within a 12 km radius of ASSBY. Eighty per cent belong to backward groups. Erstwhile agriculturists have now found new avenues of life in ASSBY. A few of them work on the breaking of ships, but they are for the most part working in ancillary jobs. Tea shops, pan ‘gallas’, sundry provision shops, eateries and other such small business have been started by these villagers. There are around 350 scrap goods shops, known as ‘khadas’ in local parlance, most of these ‘khadas’ are owned by these villagers. The villagers’ issues are as follows:

The workers 

ASSBY plot holders employ some 35,000 workers directly for ship-breaking activities. There may be an equal number of workers working in ancillary activities. This is entirely a migrant labour group hailing mainly from other states of India. Around 80% of them are illiterate. Since they are migrants and young in age, almost 70% of them stay in rented shanty dwellings available near ASSBY. Most of them do not have facilities for potable water. Their monthly income from ship-breaking activities is around Rs.3,600. This amount is on the high side for such manual and hazardous work. The migrant workers’ issues are:

The convergence process 

No institutional mechanism existed for facilitating understanding and convergence between these four different and sometimes antagonistic groups. As can be seen, there are more commonalities in the issues of different stakeholders than there are differences. However, due to insufficient communication between the different groups, the social distance between them is large. Each one felt suspicious about the other over the unsolved issues. There were also hot debates and even scuffles at a few times. The so-called environmental debates on the ASSBY issue, which appeared in the media, also generated a feeling of suspicion in the minds of GMB officials as well as the ship-breakers. There are instances when a stakeholder has complained to the media about another stakeholder, and as a result damaging news and views have been broadcast.

Bhavnagar University’s research team approached each group independently, in order to carry out a stakeholders’ analysis. The research team maintained equal distances from all the groups. The process was as follows:

 

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