Deadly Cargo

An importer is reportedly trying to offload 30,000 metric tons of poisonous fertiliser in a hurry, defying a High Court order. The importer is guilty on several counts. First, the fertiliser has been imported without the prior permission of the authorities. This is a clear violation of the 'fertiliser control order'. What is more, the deadly cargo had earlier been rejected by Australia, the original destination. Not only did Australia refuse to accept the cargo, it rejected an appeal to throw the fertiliser into the sea because of the danger it would pose to the environment. Later on the government of Australia sounded a warning through a website message for all countries against the use of that particular fertiliser.

Now the question is, if the importer opted for the pertiliser knowing full well what he was importing. Most likely he did, because he was not supposed to clinch a trade deal without the authority's prior approval, least of all when the cargo was in the mid-sea. Perhaps he made a gamble and counted on his skill to 'manage' people. If he succeeded to get off with his plan, there was a chance of a huge profit.

When the scandalous deal made news at home and abroad, a probe committee headed by a joint secretary was constituted to look into the matter. The committee in its report determined that the quality of the consignment was unacceptable. Challenging the committee's report, the importing house moved a writ petition to the High Court. The director of 'Adhikar', a human rights organisation, submitted another writ petition against the first one. The HC upheld the government decision not to offload the fertiliser. It gave its opinion in favour of the ship's leaving the port with the authority's clearance.

Upto this point, things went according to rules. But then suddenly things have taken a dramatic twist. The same ministry of agriculture has once again constituted another committee to determine the quality of the fertiliser. This time an official holding a lower position than that of the joint secretary is leading the committee and allegedly those without expert knowledge in fertiliser have been inducted into the committee.

We question the rationality of constituting a second committee. Does it mean that the first committee's report has been rejected? What is the committee's fault? The Ministry of Agriculture itself constituted the committee. It cannot form another committee without explaining the need for it. Certainly people smell rats in the move.

We do not know what happened to a similar consignment of poisonous fertiliser that had to be stacked in a godown midway in its distribution a few years back. In whichever form it exists in our land, it will have a harmful effect on our environment. So before the deadly cargo is offloaded here, even in our territorial waters, the ship must be made to run away as fast as it can. Ours is not a dumping ground.

Source: Editorial, The Bangladesh Observer, November 9, 2002.

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