ELAW partner Rizwana Hasan

ELAW partner Rizwana Hasan has been working for the past 10 years to put an end to shipbreaking.  Shipbreaking, or the dismantling of obsolete ships by hand, is a harmful practice for both workers and the environment.  Workers using little or no protective gear pull the ships apart, and in so doing expose their bodies, and beaches, to harmful substances like asbestos, PCBs, lead, and lubricants.

Rizwana is working to protect laborers in the shipbreaking industry and ensure that Bangladesh doesn’t continue to be a dumping ground for polluted ships.  This extraordinary work led ELAW to nominate Rizwana for the Goldman Prize, which she won in 2009.

While Rizwana has won protections for workers and the environment from the Supreme Court, which ordered all shipyards without environmental approvals to close, the battle continues.  Despite the damages from other shipbreaking operations, the prime minister plans to establish new shipbreaking operations on the bank of the Baleshwar River.

Rizwana has criticized the proposed project, saying: “Does the government want to pollute the coastal eco-system and destroy the coastal forests?  Has it not learnt from the polluted beaches, disappearing mangroves and heavily contaminated land and water of Sitakunda?”

Mark Chernaik, ELAW Staff Scientist, has collaborated with Rizwana for more than a decade. “Rizwana’s courage and determination, taking a stand for laborers and the marine environment, while facing down intimidation from industrialists and their allies in government, is truly inspirational,” he says.

You can find more information about the proposed project here.

Rizwana’s dedication to ending hazardous shipbreaking and charting a sustainable future for Bangladesh is a powerful example for everyone working to promote environmental justice.  We are pleased to stand with Rizwana as she works to protect Bangladesh and its people.

Michele Kuhnle
Donor Liaison