THE commerce ministry’s call for setting up infrastructure including scanners at all sea and land ports to conduct radiation test of imported iron, waste scrap, machinery, motor vehicles and other metals before releasing those from the ports is welcome as radiation from some metals is harmful for public health. The ministry, as New Age reported on Sunday, also asked the National Board of Revenue to take steps to deploy skilled officials for 24 hours at the spots where radiation testing scanners known as Radiation Portal Monitor have been set up at Chittagong port.
As reported, currently there are 12 radiation testing scanners at Chittagong port while there are no such machines at Mongla sea port or other land ports. The confounding fact is that a large quantity of scrap iron, old machinery and other metals and several lakhs of reconditioned motor vehicles are imported every year but a small fraction of those go through any testing process because of lack of logistics at the ports. Recently, shipping ministry detected some consignments loaded with radiation risky scrap and metal from different countries including Japan and consequent upon that it requested commerce ministry to make haste to look into this matter of public health and environmental concern. The unpalatable truth is that the government has not yet taken adequate steps to conduct metal radiation test at all sea ports. Exposure to radiation makes human bodies produce fewer blood clotting agents called blood platelets, increasing the risk of internal bleeding and it may cause them to get afflicted with such diseases as irremediable cancer. Clearance certificates stating that the radioactivity level is within the acceptable limit in the imported food stuff from the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission is also mandatory; but in many cases this rule is not enforced properly. It would not be unjustifiable to say that it is a horrendous experience for a conscious individual to find markets around him/her swamped with harmful imported food items as the very thought of consuming this food gives him/her jitters.
All the government agencies concerned will need to be watchful and set their priority aright; it is certainly important to release the imported machineries, metals and reconditioned cars and other products from the ports but it is far more urgent to stop those items replete with radiation risks from entering the market of the country. The government needs to realise that it is constitutionally ordained to ensure safety of public health and its apathy and lack of interest in this regard is an unpardonable offence. One cannot rule out the speculations that the political clout enjoyed by some unscrupulous importer cartel may have contributed to such dithering by the authorities concerned in checking this menace. Hence, conscious sections of society need to raise their voice and mobilise public opinion so that the government takes expeditious steps immediately to conduct radiation tests of imported items and risky items are never allowed to enter the market.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Editorial