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Bangladesh's Ship Breaking Industry: Economic Opportunity and Exploitation

Bangladesh's Ship Breaking Industry: Economic Opportunity and Exploitation

Photograph and copyright, Brendan Corr, copyright 2006 Foreign Policy

The photograph above is one piece from a photo essay published in Foreign Policy Magazine more than three years ago. The work, as a whole, is no less a moving document today as the day it was first birthed into the world.

The ship breaking industry in Bangladesh employs hundreds of thousands of poor but proud Bangladeshis, who work in exploitive and environmentally harmful conditions.  A recent ruling by the Bangladesh Supreme Court requires:

1) that uncertified ship-breaking operations close within two weeks;
2) Ship-breaking operations must obtain environmental certification before operating in Bangladesh;
3) Ships must be cleansed of all hazardous materials before entering the country
4) Ship-breaking operations must guarantee safe working conditions for workers
5) There must exist environmentally sound disposal plans for waste.
This is an important move.  The state has sanctioned a call for social justice; the end game, however, is enforcement of the state and judicial sanction.  Though a writ under law, I cannot foresee any credible enforcement of worker protection.


Faheem Haider

Faheem Haider is a political analyst, writer and artist. He holds advanced research degrees in political economy, political theory and the political economy of development from the London School of Economics and Political Science and New York University. He also studied political psychology at Columbia University. During long stints away from his beloved Washington Square Park, he studied peace and conflict resolution and French history and European politics at the American University in Washington DC and the University of Paris, respectively.

Faheem has research expertise in democratic theory and the political economy of democracy in South Asia. In whatever time he has to spare, Faheem paints, writes, and edits his own blog on the photographic image and its relationship to the political narrative of fascist, liberal and progressivist art.

That work and associated writing can be found at the following link:

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