ELAW partners at the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) contributed to Sandy Tolan’s moving story about child workers in the shipyards of Bangladesh, “Babu’s Story: A Child Worker In The Shipyards Of Bangladesh.” ELAW Staff Scientist Mark Chernaik provided background information to the reporter for the story.
“Did anybody ever tell you,” I asked the child worker sitting on the cement floor, “‘You’re only 13, you shouldn’t have to work like this’?”
Ismael “Babu” Hussein paused to reflect on the question. All around him were other kids, sitting in the small airless room that was shared by several worker families who sleep there in shifts. Like Babu, these boys, some as young as 12, do the risky, often terrifying work of breaking down ships by hand on the beaches of Chittagong, Bangladesh. The boys are apprentices to older “masters” who operate the blowtorches that cut the steel walls into six-by-ten-foot plates, and thus turn useless old tankers and cargo ships into usable scrap.