Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands

Coastal region and small island papers 17

The work is physically demanding and many of the tasks are very risky. The process of ship-breaking is labour intensive and requires a high level of teamwork and co-ordination, which is often very difficult to achieve under prevailing weather and noise conditions.

Chapter Three   Identifying and developing consensus on the main issues


  Anne Ebner © 2003


The biophysical and socio-cultural surveys revealed that the immediate area has undergone significant changes over the last two decades since the advent of ship-breaking activities. Whilst it was clear that these impacts are most noticeable among the villagers and workers, it was equally clear that those who run and regulate ship-breaking at ASSBY, the ship-breakers and the Gujarat Maritime Board, must be involved in any dialogue in order to mitigate the negative effects of the yard.

A two-day workshop held in Bhavnagar in July 2000 brought together representatives from three of the main stakeholder groups: villagers, ship-breakers and the Gujarat Maritime Board, as well as other persons involved in ASSBY. This meeting marked the beginning of a process whereby individuals and groups began to listen to each others views on various issues, including safety, health care and water supply. Following this very important workshop, he field project was re-focused towards identifying and understanding the views of the four individual stakeholder groups, and then bringing the groups together to resolve some of the outstanding issues.

During 2000–2001, workshops were held with each of the stakeholder groups individually. A villagers’ workshop was held on 19 November 2000 at Gram Dakshinamurti Lokshala (a lokshala is a village residential school) in Manar village. A total of 85 representatives, of which almost half were women, from the 10 study villages came to present their problems and related issues regarding the yard. A workers’ workshop was held on 17 December 2000 at the AIDS centre hall at the Alang yard, and was attended by over 60 workers. A workshop with the Gujarat Maritime Board officials was held on 14 February 2001 in their office at Alang. A ship-breakers’ workshop was not possible, hence meetings were held with individual ship-breakers (eight were interviewed) either at their homes or offices. Preparations for discussions with ship-breakers were handled with the assistance of the Gujarat Ship-Breakers Association. The ‘Stakeholders’ Convergence Workshop’ was held on 16 May 2001 at the Gujarat Maritime Board’s office.

Issues of concern arising from individual stakeholder workshops, 2000–01

Water resources

Many villagers were very concerned about the serious problem of water supply, which in their view was due to scanty rainfall, rising water demand for agricultural production, and population growth in nearby villages. There is a vast difference in the depth of the ground water table among the 10 villages, ranging from 15 metres below ground to 130 metres. The planting of trees to encourage more rainfall and minimize the loss of surface water was another issue.


Village woman performing household chores


Efforts by the Gujarat Maritime Board to solve the water supply problems include the deepening of lakes in Bharapara, Jaspara and Mathavda, the construction of an underground drainage facility at Jaspara, and the excavation of farm ponds (khet talavada).


Villagers were acutely aware that there is a need to ensure the proper disposal of solid and liquid waste, both at and around the ship-breaking yard. In their view the process of ship-breaking contributes to water pollution and the consequent chemical wastes affect the growth
of crops. They were also concerned about oil spill-over, from khadas engaged in the oil trade, contaminating the groundwater aquifers.

The ship-breaking process produces a lot of solid waste including asbestos, paint chips, heavy metals, plastic, sludge, glass and ceramics. The disposal of this material is the responsibility of the ship-breakers. It is transported to Ahmedabad over 300 km from the yard, which considerably adds to the cost and inefficiency of the entire process.

To begin to solve this problem, the Gujarat Maritime Board has acquired two hectares of land to dispose of the biodegradable and non-biodegradable wastes. A complete solid waste management finance package has been prepared, which includes US$ 450,000 from the Gujarat Maritime Board. Pending approval of the head office in Gandhinagar, the project should be completed by October 2004.

Noise pollution was another concern, particularly for the villagers of Kathava which is situated on both sides of a main road. Despite speed breakers, heavy daytime traffic disturbs life and school activities. The villagers advocated the need for a bypass road. The frequent traffic accidents, particularly those involving children, were also of great concern.

Spatial planning and land use

Much of the agricultural land has been sold or rented for use as khadas and some farmers have established their own khadas. This is a part of a larger process occurring all over Gujarat where fast paced industrialization is taking up agricultural land. Gujarat ranks among the most industrialized states of India, and the tilt towards industrialization at the expense of agriculture (and animal husbandry) is likely to have long-term repercussions.

The Gujarat Maritime Board has provided some assistance with infrastructure, including roads and drainage in Alang, roads in Mathavda and Bharapara, and bus shelters within the area. The road in Alang and Sosiya is often congested with heavy vehicles and accidents are quite common. Plans have been prepared to provide parking facilities, and 10 hectares of land have been designated for this purpose.

The Gujarat Maritime Board has designated an area of 17 km2 as a ‘Notified Area’. This includes the villages of Jaspara, Alang, Manar, Mathavda, Bharapara and Sosiya. A Notified Area is an area identified by the Gujarat government Industrial Development Act. This area is supposed to be marked for planned development, providing basic amenities in a regulated and sustainable manner. A Notified Area is also supposed to have proper infrastructure to meet the needs of businesses. In 1998 an agreement was made between the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) and the Gujarat Maritime Board, according to which the Gujarat Maritime Board will provide all facilities until the area can be self sustaining, at which point it will be handed back to the same Notified Area Authority. Both the GIDC and the Gujarat Maritime Board are bodies belonging to the Government of Gujarat. All of these villages in the Notified Area are on, or immediately adjacent to, the coastline. A master plan has been developed to improve and, where necessary, to provide a variety of primary facilities such as hospitals, schools, gardens and playgrounds. Financial assistance for these projects will be the responsibility of the Gujarat Maritime Board.


The standard of children’s education has vastly improved according to the villagers. Before the formation of the yard, very few children applied for admission to school, as their families did not have sufficient money to pay fees. Today, many families are in a much better position to afford schooling fees for their children. In addition, improved living standards and increased income have allowed children to be educated to higher standards in institutions beyond their own village. The Gujarat Maritime Board has extended the school buildings in the villages of Mathavda, Bharapara and Sosiya, and undertaken to support school activities.

A village residential school (lokshala) has also planned for vocational guidance and training that will assist those students who intend to start their own business or enter self-employment after completing 10th or 12th standard. Ship-breakers have also shown their interest in this initiative and intend to assist the lokshala with contributions to a Vocational Training Course. Villagers are also interested in vocational training for their children.

Despite these improvements, the workers at the yard feel that the lack of adequate schooling facilities and instruction in their mother tongue for their children is a major impediment to bringing their families to the area.


Villagers reported that seasonal diseases such as fever and colds were still common, and the residents of Kathava and Sosiya complained of throat burning problems attributed to the contamination of groundwater by oil.

For the workers, the smoke and fumes emitted during the ship-breaking procedures are hazardous to health, and there has been a rise in respiratory disorders. The unhygienic conditions of the yard contribute to the spread of diseases including malaria. Potable water tanks, when not cleaned regularly, are unhygienic. The surrounding rubbish may also contaminate uncovered water tanks provided for the workers.

Due to improper disposal, solid waste from ASSBY had begun to spill over to the nearby villages and this was of concern to the villagers. Also of concern was increased mosquito infestation due to poor drainage system in villages and market places. Drainage gutters have been completed in a number of villages identified by the Gujarat Maritime Board. Open gutters exist in Alang village.

From the viewpoint of the villagers, the yard has resulted in improved health care with the development of hospitals and clinics, and health facilities provided by different organizations such as the Blood Bank, the AIDS centre, and the Red Cross. A Red Cross hospital, an AIDS centre and a number of unregistered private practitioners are available at the yard. Recently a mobile medical van (Rs. 2 million or US$ 44,000) was purchased by the ship-breakers who also pay for its running costs. This mobile van is used for first aid treatment and dispensing medicines free of charge. The Gujarat Ship-Breakers Association also supplies a doctor and two fully equipped ambulances.

There remains an overall lack of both health education and awareness among the villagers and the workers. This problem is exacerbated by the number of unqualified doctors practising in the villages and at ASSBY. The workers often turn to the unqualified doctors. Workers do not receive any sick pay, thus they always seek a quick recovery. Taking advantage of their illiteracy, workers are sometimes given medicines with expired dates, inappropriate medicine and unsterilized syringes. They often suffer dangerous reactions as a result of such malpractice.

The AIDS centre, run by the Bhavnagar Blood Bank, seeks to improve the level of health awareness by distributing information and
organizing various health awareness programmes, particularly on AIDS. In addition, there are health awareness camps organized by other institutions. Recently a street play was organized by Mahila College, Bhavnagar, to help raise awareness about health issues. Another encouraging sign is the organization of health diagnosis camps collectively and individually by a number of ship-breakers in their plots.

Health camp

During the second phase of the project the research team observed that people displayed a lack of interest about their health. The team became increasingly concerned about health issues and took the initiative to organize a health camp for women and children. The school, situated in the centre of the Manar village, was chosen as the place for the camp as suggested by the Sarpanch (head) of the village, the head master and the principal of the school. It was decided to have the check-up health camp on a Sunday which, being a holiday, was the only day when the specialist doctors from Bhavnagar were available. This would also allow the maximum number of villagers and the labourers from the yard to take advantage of the camp. The camp was advertised through pamphlets and notices in the villages, health centre and religious assemblies, and through cable TV. Separate check-up centres were set up for the women and children in the school classrooms where over 150 women and children were examined.

Based on their check-up of women of all ages, the doctors found evidence of a condition known as fluorisis, which causes pain in the bones and joints. This is caused by excessive fluorine in the drinking water and is most likely due to the falling ground water levels. Inadequate diet was one of the reasons for anaemia among the women. Poor drinking water quality was also responsible for gastrointestinal diseases. The doctors recommended increased consumption of vegetables and milk, filtration and boiling of drinking water, treatment with alum, and increased physical activity to ward off the negative effects of increasingly sedentary lives.

The paediatricians concluded that many of the complaints among the children were due to consumption of gutka (a chewing mixture containing tobacco, betel nut, lime and katha – all addictive and carcinogenic – the katha is extracted from the bark of the Acacia catechu tree). Anaemia in children was due to inadequate diet (milk does not contain iron). Ignorance was also one of the causes of poor health. Unhygienic living conditions caused worms in the children. To eliminate these problems the doctors suggested proper diet and strict maintenance of personal hygiene. Other measures are required to restrict the availability and consumption of gutka.

Recommendations stemming from the health camp included the following:

Living conditions

While most of the villagers felt their living conditions had improved since the arrival of the yard, living conditions were a major concern for the migrant workers, most of whom are young single males. Only 10%, mostly mukadams (labour contractors) and supervisors, live with their families in residences (provided by the ship-breakers) in Alang and Manar.

The workers inhabit shacks lining both sides of the road at the yard. These houses, made of wooden and iron sheets and some plastic materials, are locally known as kholis. They are approximately 10 x 10 m2 in size and have been constructed by the workers since the beginning of the operations at ASSBY. They encroach on land owned by the Gujarat Maritime Board. About ten workers live in each kholi and they pay a rent of Rs. 40–50 (approximately US$ 1) per person per month. Basic facilities such as electricity, drainage, potable water and lavatories are usually absent in kholis. There are public lavatories at the yard, but they are not used as there are too few and are far from the workers’ residence.

The Gujarat Maritime Board plans to construct residential houses for the workers, and it has acquired 24 hectares of land for this purpose in Alang and Sosiya. The buildings will be multi-story with primary facilities including water supply, lavatories, electricity and kitchens. In late 2003 dialogue between the Gujarat Maritime Board and the Gujarat Ship Breakers Association was ongoing regarding the financing of the residential scheme. The formation of a committee to finance and oversee the construction is awaited, and will consist of the Gujarat Ship-Breakers Association and the Gujarat Maritime Board contributing one third of the costs, with the remainder to be paid in rent by workers. This committee will work independently under the supervision of the Gujarat Maritime Board and will also consider other housing alternatives.

The availability of potable water is also limited; some ship-breakers provide water for their workers. The Gujarat Maritime Board also has water tanks at certain places, but for some workers they are too far away from the plots and residences. The lack of water prevents adequate washing and cleaning of people, clothes, housing and cooking implements, contributing to very poor sanitation.

The main reasons why workers come to ASSBY without their families relates to the lack of proper residential facilities, lack of schooling facilities for their children at the yard and the general insecurity of income and jobs. Workers interviewed reported that they tried to save as much of their earnings as possible and send it to their families in their home states, while some workers said that they could not save money at all. Many workers return to their original homes for two to three months in the summer to assist their families in farming or other enterprises and then return to the Alang yard.

  New training centre completed at ASSBY in 2003

Working conditions and safety at ASSBY

Workers labour out in the open in often severe conditions including the rainy season. The work is physically demanding and many of the tasks are very risky. The process of ship-breaking is labour intensive and requires a high level of teamwork and co-ordination, which is often very difficult to achieve under prevailing weather and noise conditions. Safety equipment such as gloves, spectacles, boots and helmets are required for protection during work. These are not always regularly supplied and may need to be purchased by the workers themselves, although this situation varies among plot lessees. In many cases the workers themselves are reluctant to put on the safety gear because they believe that it will hinder their working efficiency.

To prevent frequently occurring accidents, the Gujarat Maritime Board in conjunction with the ship-breakers have historically organized training programmes for workers at the Industrial Training Institute, Bhavnagar. An impressive new training centre with both an auditorium and amphitheatre was completed in 2003. Classes for the workers have commenced and will be conducted by experts, some of them coming from the yard, to instruct the workers about all aspects of the ship-breaking process, including the cutting of heavy iron plates, disposal of gases, and general safety within the ship itself. Additional experts will come from the Engineering and Marine Engineering Colleges in Ahmedabad. The facility will also have a sports ground for the workers to pass their free time and improve fitness.

The ship-breakers are also concerned about the safety of the workers, and recommended that the plots should be expanded in size to minimize the risk. At present there are four categories of plots: 30 m x 45 m, 50 m x 45 m, 60 m x 45 m and 10 plots of 120 m x 45 m designated for non-resident Indians of which only five have been occupied. The ship-breaking process is very difficult in the two smaller sized plots, especially since the cranes need a considerable area within which to operate effectively. The ship-breakers are very keen to see an increase in the size of the plots so that they have more room to operate, can introduce more advanced technological equipment, and can provide better facilities and working conditions. All of the plot leases are due to expire in 2004 and the Gujarat Maritime Board intends to eradicate the less efficient 30 m plots, thereby reducing the number of operational plots to between 80 and 100.

Labour laws and wages

The most difficult obstacle facing the implementation of labour laws is the lack of understanding among the workers as to their rights and the corresponding responsibilities of the Gujarat Maritime Board and the ship-breakers. The most immediate problem from the workers’ perspective was about the laws concerning wages. Proper wage laws were implemented only in selected plots and are not universally observed. A related concern was a lack of understanding regarding their Provident Fund (a kind of pension) accounts. The Provident Fund was created by ship-breakers, and eligibility for membership is acquired after two years permanent work. However, the majority of workers remain ignorant of their Provident Fund number, contributions, available credit, use of pass
books, and receipts.


Capt. Y.P. Deulkar (second from left), Port
Officer of the Gujarat Maritime Board and
members of the research team


According to general government regulations 12.5% of the employees’ basic pay is deposited every month in the Provident Fund (in the bank), plus the interest on the total amount. Ultimately when the employee retires, she/he gets the total amount in their Provident Fund. However, due to the high mobility of the workers, this kind of arrangement has obvious drawbacks.

Each worker at ASSBY has to be issued an identity card by the Gujarat Maritime Board authorizing them to enter and work at the yard. The identity card, also known as the master card, includes a signature, stamps and the number of the plot to which the worker is assigned. There are problems in updating the master cards, given that workers often move between different plots. This also creates problems in keeping track of both wages and contributions by the ship-breakers to the Provident Fund.

Working hours at the yard are from 8.30 am to 6.00 pm including a one-hour lunch break and half an hour tea break, six days per week, with Sunday as a rest day. When the workload is higher than normal, the workers labour for 12 to 14 hours a day, sometimes into the night. There is no overtime rate or payment for holidays. Different wage rates apply for different types of work, often depending on the degree of risk, and rates may vary from plot to plot. Workers often receive no pay slips, and merely sign for their wages. Ship-breakers do not always keep records of wages. The average worker at ASSBY gets approximately Rs. 3,000 per month (US$ 65 approx.). The workers do not pay tax as they fall below the tax threshold.

An underlying concern for the workers is the provision of permanent employment at the yard. Despite the fact that many workers have been working there for several years, insecurity is rife since a worker can be discharged from their job at any time. As a result, workers frequently move between plots in search of better paid employment. This creates a very transient atmosphere with only rare cases of continuous employment for a long period at the same plot. In addition, ships may not be available for dismantling throughout the year, thus further adding to the irregularity of work availability.

In terms of mobilizing the workforce to present a united voice, there are three major obstacles. These are the lack of a shared language and culture, the workers dependence on a daily wage, and their need to maintain very close relations with their immediate supervisors in order to keep their jobs. In addition, some ship-breakers discourage interaction among workers of different states at the plots and there is a clear lack of support from any local political group, labour union or NGOs. This may be because most of the workers are non-Gujaratis and do not represent a vote bank.

  Typical sign advertising goods for sale at a
khada shop

Economic considerations

Favourable economic conditions are critical for the viability of the ship-breaking industry at ASSBY. Many ship-breakers and other people who are directly or indirectly associated with the yard acknowledged that the industry was facing severe recession. All of the ship-breakers interviewed believe that since the establishment of ASSBY the economic situation of the Bhavnagar district has greatly improved. The industry also provides employment to thousands
of people in Gujarat State and has generated many small and large-scale businesses such as oxygen plants, rolling mills, transportation, construction, catering and scrap-yards, which depend on the yard for their viability.

From the ship-breakers’ perspective, the international market and their ability to purchase ships to break, the general state of the Indian economy, the devaluation of the rupee and the present drought condition are among the factors that are currently adversely affecting the ship-breaking industry.

According to many ship-breakers, custom duties and other taxes are very high in India. One pioneer of the ship-breaking industry observed that custom duties and government taxes had increased markedly so that now ship-breakers have to pay a number of taxes (including income, customs, excise and local municipal taxes) to different government departments. They stated that despite these high taxes and duties there was little evidence of sufficient improvements to infrastructure and facilities at the yard
such as electricity, roads and water.

Results of the 2001 stakeholder convergence workshop

After the individual meetings and workshops with the four stakeholder groups, the next stage saw the four groups coming together to exchange ideas and opinions about the issues so as to foster understanding and explore solutions and ways forward. A workshop involving all four stakeholders at ASSBY was held on 16 May 2001 at the Gujarat Maritime Board office. All four groups attended this meeting having prepared in advance their position on the points to be discussed.

One of the most important issues that surfaced during the workshop was the fact that there is a fundamental difference between the Gujarat Maritime Board and the ship-breakers in their perceptions of, and approaches to, issues at the yard. The Gujarat Maritime Board, as the port authority and administrative body under the State Government, is responsible for the development and management of the ASSBY coastal area. The relationship between the Gujarat Maritime Board and the ship-breakers is a critical one in order to broker and finance agreements concerning the improvement of infrastructure for all four stakeholder parties.

The following represents the main outcomes of the Stakeholder Convergence Workshop. Many of the points raised further emphasize those already discussed in the individual stakeholder workshops:

Water supply: For the sustained growth of the ship-breaking yard, the first and foremost problem is that of water supply. All four stakeholder groups were asked to work on providing possible solutions. Improved water storage in the villages can be provided through rain water harvesting by the construction of farm lakes, canals and check dams. The Gujarat Maritime Board responded that they would start work on a priority basis in the ‘Notified Area’ (which includes the villages of Jaspara, Alang, Manar, Mathavada, Bharapara and Sosiya), as well as in the villages adopted by them. In other villages such water storage projects would be the responsibility of the villagers themselves. At present the main source of water supply comes from the Mahi Parihage Scheme (from the Mahi River).

Living conditions for the workers: The ship-breakers should provide financial assistance to the Gujarat Maritime Board to construct residential blocks for the labourers, who would be required to pay rent for these units. The first phase of housing 4,800 workers has yet to commence. The steering committee will work independently under the supervision of the Gujarat Maritime Board. All modern amenities, gardens, dispensary, shops etc. will be provided in the housing complex.


Workers with safety gear at the ship-breaking


Worker safety: Worker safety will be improved through the establishment of a training facility at the yard itself. (Since the workshop, this facility has been established at Alang in 2003.)

Worker health care: The need to conduct more work on the health issues facing labourers was acknowledged. The Bhavnagar Blood Bank suggested reducing worker vulnerability to sexually transmitted diseases and HIV by improving working and living conditions, health services, establishing clinics for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, family welfare centres and adult education classes.

Noise pollution: Regarding the noise level near busy roads, the Gujarat Maritime Board has successfully completed construction of a number of roads under the ‘Gokul Gram’ village development scheme to improve vehicular flow into and out of ASSBY. At the plots, the workers are being provided with ear muffs.

Provident Fund: The ship-breakers agreed to provide periodic information about the Provident Fund to the workers.

Education: A school is to be started at the yard for the education of the children of the labourers working there.

Roads: The Gujarat Maritime Board will work on road widening, and the villagers will cut the ‘baval’ (Prosopis juliflora) trees growing on both sides of the roads, so as to improve visibility and to reduce accidents. The Gujarat Maritime Board is prepared to construct a bypass road from Alang if the land can be acquired.

Recycling: It was agreed that it was possible to increase the income in the district, if the raw material and scrap generated by the yard was recycled in a planned manner at ASSBY. Other than steel, which comprises 85% of a ship, there are other materials such as panels, cables, compressors, wooden furniture, workshop machinery, engine parts, navigation items, filters etc. This material is transported to other places for dismantling, which adds to the transportation cost. Small organized yards could be set up at ASSBY to dismantle these materials.

The stakeholders agreed that the sustainable development of the yard is of common interest to all and must be founded upon effective dialogue and follow-up action on issues that are identified by stakeholders. The future challenge lies in devising an appropriate mechanism or process whereby this continual dialogue and its appropriate follow-up can be achieved.

Further stakeholder consultations in 2003

In 2003, a further series of meetings were held over a two-month period and a stakeholder convergence workshop was conducted in October. Many of the issues already identified in the earlier stakeholder consultations of 2001 were again raised as ongoing concerns, some of which were being exacerbated by a lack of communication. It was also noted that mistrust between certain stakeholder groups was intensifying as little progress had been made on resolving some of the most pressing concerns. Nevertheless, it was clear that awareness amongst all stakeholders on the need to engage in dialogue was increasing. In particular, discussion was held on the organization of a villagers representative committee to directly liaise with the Gujarat Maritime Board. During the October 2003 workshop, stakeholder representatives and participants also agreed that further efforts need to be made so that all stakeholders can effectively participate and enter into discussion.


Participants at the workshop
in 2003


Some progress had been made since 2001. Accident prevention, education and training have been improved through activities at the new training facility at ASSBY. In addition, both the Gujarat Maritime Board and the ship-breakers have contributed to improved health services in the yard, and the Gujarat Ship-Breakers Association funds a private primary school for the workers’ children in Manar village.

Yet much still remains to be done. The final report (Joshi et al., 2003) identified several key areas for prioritized action and follow-up at the ship-breaking yard and in the surrounding communities. The living conditions of workers are in urgent need of improvement and the land problems of villagers and ship-breakers must be resolved through compensation and improved security of tenure. In addition, it was recommended that the Coastal Regulation Zone Act be implemented in all ten villages within a minimum of a 12 km radius of ASSBY. There is still considerable lack of awareness among villagers and some officials regarding the finer details of this act, as well as the Notified Area, which need to be clarified. Infrastructural improvements are also necessary. Cleaner production systems need to be maintained through improved solid waste management and recycling programmes. Public transportation within ASSBY and the surrounding area should be improved to reduce traffic congestion and accidents. Health, safety and educational issues need further action. Specifically a comprehensive HIV/AIDS awareness programme should be introduced in the ASSBY area to improve the health of the local communities. There is a growing sex worker industry operating in and around ASSBY. This group has emerged as an additional stakeholder group who need to be involved in any follow up work related to health.

Dialogue between stakeholders remains vitally important in order to mitigate conflict and to facilitate agreement on the implementation of effective solutions.


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