The Gadani ship-breaking yard is the world’s third largest such enterprise. Stretched across a 10 km long beachfront, it is about 50 kilometres northwest of Karachi.
In the 1980s, Gadani was the largest ship-breaking yard in the world. Since then, competition from newer facilities in India and Bangladesh has led to a significant reduction in its output.
Over one million tons of steel is scavenged here each year. Still, there are no personal or environmental safety precautions. Fifteen thousand impoverished Pakistanis risk their lives every day, tearing down ships in the sun. They earn as little as Rs400 a day. About 70% of these workers, who include helpers, welders, crane operators and cleaners, come from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Working in this graveyard of ships is a gruelling and dangerous job. By some assessments, it is the world’s deadliest job. Labourers tear down the ships piece by piece, working with chemicals such as mercury or lead, without safety equipment such as helmets, gloves, belts or fire-retardant clothing.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, April 14th, 2013.
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