Ship breaking yards in Chittagong are a contributing factor to coastal belt pollution in Sitakunda. Working conditions are also very poor including smoke and dust inhalation as well as some asbestos featuring in the area. Chittagong, Bangladesh. 09/08/2008.
Ship breaking recycles old ships which are passed their life span, the recycling is done by breaking up ships for scrap metal. Most ships have lifespan of several decades before repair work becomes uneconomical. Ship breaking allows for materials from the ship, mainly steel that is used as raw materials of the steel re-rolling industry in Bangladesh. Some other countries use these scrap steel to build new vessels besides using as raw materials in steel re-rolling industries.
While the ship breaking industry formed in the port cities of countries such as United States and Great Britain, it was so only till the end of 20th century. Today, most ship breaking yards are in some countries of Asia, principally Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India. This is because the labour costs are lower and the environmental regulations for ship breaking are less stringent—there are no guidelines for the disposal of lead paint and other toxic substances that are released in the process of breaking.
As a country, Bangladesh is dependent on ship-breaking for its domestic steel requirements—scrap ships provide about 80% of the country's steel needs. Additionally, around three million people are directly or indirectly employed in the industry (40% of the work force comprises of child labourers). But the ground reality of this industry is a far cry from these benefits.
Most of the ship breaking yards are in Sitakunda at Chittagong thereby polluting the coastal belt of Sitakunda. The working conditions, too, are very dangerous. Dangerous vapours and fumes from burning materials can be inhaled, and dusty asbestos-laden areas are commonplace and protective equipment is most times absent or inadequate. As a result, there are huge casualties causing loss of lives every year. An alarming statistics shows such casualties left around 600 workers killed and another three thousand injured or disabled in the last 15 years. The casualties mainly result from oil or gas chamber blasts, flammable substances, fall from high places, manual carrying of heavy steel sheets etc.
Despite these conditions, every year lots of people from all over Bangladesh, especially from the northern part of the country, come to this industry to manage their living.