Lead ballast near Red Sea coast may be radioactive
While the fishermen said the ballast contained pipes stuffed with radioactive nuclear materials, a government commission tasked with checking the ballast has yet to comment on the matter.
Such radiation represents a direct and serious threat to the biological cells that are the most essential components of human and animal bodies, according to environment expert Waleed Al-Qadasi.
“If stores of pesticides can pose the threat of cancer to residents of neighboring houses, nuclear radiation can cause yet more harm to humans and animals,” he said. “It causes genetic disorders that extend to second and third generations.”
Al-Qadasi further added that radioactive materials are buried near Yemeni coastlines, and added that the rate with which tumors have spread in coastal areas raises many questions about such waste burial.
Mahmoud Shadyoh, chairman of the Public Authority for Environmental Protection and member of the above-mentioned commission, told the Yemen Times that the commission hasn’t yet finalized its report, which is due to be submitted to the cabinet next Wednesday.
Yasser Ghobair, head of Hodeida’s Environmental Protection Authority, revealed to the Yemen Times that the National Committee for Nuclear Energy has taken part in the report’s preparation.
For his part, Ghobair definitively stated that the lead ballast don’t contain radioactive materials. The statement was given despite the fact that ballast had not yet been checked.
“Waves in the sea were heavy and it was difficult to dive deeper to explore,” said Ghobair.
He affirmed that the ballast is 800 meters away from the coast of Al-Doraihim and lies 4 meters below the water’s surface. Ghobair added that 30 years ago, fisherman had found similar pieces of ballast, which they had cut into parts and sold in markets as junk.
“The ballast that was cut has been in existence for a long time, but there is other ballast that was found months ago, and is thought to contain radiation,” said fisherman Mohammad Bajili.
Bajili told the Yemen Times that there are mafias of the Coastguards forces which work for the favor of major shipping companies belonging to superpowers such as the United States, Britain and Japan, pointing out that the mafias allow these companies to bury wastes of ships in the Yemeni territorial waters.
Bajili said that there are about 21 pieces of brass ballast, other than those that were cut and sold in markets by fishermen, and said they are believed to be radioactive.
A retired colonel who requested anonymity said the dispute surfaced between Coastguards aligned with defected Major General Ali Muhsin Al-Ahmar and National Security forces commanded by former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s nephew, Amar Mohammed Abdullah Saleh.
National Security in Hodeida has accused the Coastguard of involvement in burying these wastes in Yemen’s waters in the Red Sea, pointing out that the solid waste was found lying close to Coastguard facilities, which indicates some level of cooperation on the part of inbound vessels.
In late February, the matter was submitted to the government, which held an urgent meeting to discuss the issue.
The government formed a committee which included environment and health ministers, as well as three other experts from the National Committee for Atomic Energy.
Some officials from Yemen’s Environmental Protection Authority suspect that the National Committee for Atomic Energy possesses sophisticated equipment that could check for radiation.
Environment Protection Authority chief Mahmoud Shadyoh said the committee receives its equipment from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and explained that they have the same equipment which is given to other countries around the world.
Officials at the environmental authority said the lead ballast had been thrown from ships because of their heaviness. All ships operating internationally put ballast on-board to counteract strong winds when at sea.
Because many oil-producing and exporting countries are located on the banks of the Arab Sea and Red Sea many types of ballast are cast off miles away from the ports.
According to environmental studies conducted by the Public Authority for Environmental Protection, most such bulks are cast in the Red Sea.