Breaking Ships in the World-System: An Analysis of Two Ship Breaking Capitals, Alang-Sosiya, India and Chittagong, Bangladesh

R. Scott Frey


Centrality in the world-system allows countries to externalize their hazards or environmental harms on others. Core countries, for instance, dump heavy metals and greenhouse gases into the global sinks, and some of the core's hazardous products, production processes and wastes are displaced to the (semi) peripheral zones of the world-system. Since few (semi) peripheral countries have the ability to assess and manage the risks associated with such hazards, the transfer of core hazards to the (semi) periphery has adverse environmental and socio-economic consequences for many of these countries and it has spawned conflict and resistance, as well as a variety of other responses. Most discussions of this risk globalization problem have failed to situate it firmly in the world-system frame emphasizing the process of ecological unequal exchange. Using secondary sources, I begin such a discussion by examining the specific problem of ship breaking (recycling core-based ocean going vessels for steel and other materials) at the yards in Alang-Sosiya, India and Chittagong, Bangladesh. Attention centers on the nature and scope of ship breaking in these two locations, major drivers operating in the world-system, adverse consequences, the unequal mix of costs and benefits, and the failure of existing political responses at the domestic and international levels to reduce adequately the adverse consequences of ship breaking.


Ship Breaking; Hazardous Wastes; Environmental Injustice; Risk Globalization; World-Systems Theory; Ecological Unequal Exchange; Political Ecology; Capital Accumulation; Recycling

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