Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands

Coastal region and small island papers 17

 

Executive summary  
 
 

Ship-breaking activities commenced in 1983 on the beaches immediately adjacent to the villages of Alang and Sosiya in the state of Gujarat, India and subsequently evolved into a large industrial operation, the Alang-Sosiya Ship-Breaking Yard (ASSBY). Twenty years ago, government policy for comparatively new and novel industries such as ship-breaking, was in the developmental stage, and as a result, activities at ASSBY were largely unplanned and unregulated. Despite threats of sanctions, heavy criticism of environmental and social problems, and increased competition from yards in Bangladesh, China, Pakistan, the Philippines and Taiwan, ASSBY has become one of the largest ship-breaking yards in the world. Nevertheless, there has been a reduction in the number of operational plots from over 100 (out of a potential 185) in 1996, to 80 at the end of 2003.

Commencing in February 1999, a multidisciplinary team of researchers from both natural and social sciences at Bhavnagar University undertook research on the biophysical and social impacts of ASSBY. This work was supported by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) platform for Environment and Development in Coastal Regions and in Small Islands (CSI). This research has evolved into an ongoing field project within the wider framework of CSI's efforts to develop, document and test wise coastal practices for sustainable human development.

The initial objectives of the project were to determine the socio-cultural, economic and environmental impacts of ASSBY on the human communities and ecosystems in the immediate area. As no integrated, multidisciplinary study had been undertaken previously, there was little opportunity to make ‘before’ and ‘after’ comparisons. The study included surveys of flora, waterfowl and water resources as well as analysis of the economic, social and cultural ramifications of development within the study area. Further work on water resources and management was completed in mid-2002.

Following an important workshop, attended by many of the crucial stakeholders, and held in Bhavnagar, Gujarat State in July 2000, the field project was re-focused to identify the major stakeholder groups and their concerns relating to ASSBY. Then, following individual consultations, the main stakeholder groups – villagers, migrant workers, ship-breakers and the Gujarat Maritime Board – met during multi-stakeholder workshops held in Bhavnagar in May 2001 and again in October 2003.

Through such ongoing dialogue the project activities have 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. All of the stakeholder groups have displayed a willingness to address the problems. Awareness-raising, changes in attitude and specific actions have made some impact; nevertheless, there is still a long way to go.

The biggest challenge facing any consensus-building process is to devise an appropriate communication mechanism which will regularly bring the stakeholder groups together on a common platform to discuss issues of mutual concern, to reach agreement on their solution and to implement those agreements. Ship-breaking is a profit-driven business and thus market forces are most effective in regulating the interests and behaviour of the stakeholders, in particular, the ship-breakers. Therefore attention needs to be accorded to how the activities can capitalize on these forces to realize project goals.


 

 


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