On this murky stretch just a few kilometers from Bangladesh’s main industrial port, Chittagong, are dozens and dozens of beached ships.
Sea carriers, oil tankers and huge containers that at the end of their lives — many that can no longer sail safely — are abandoned here to be dismantled. Sitakund, like Alang in India or Gadani in Pakistan, is one of a sort of planetary black holes where garbage from the rich world is summarily and quietly offloaded; where thousands of impoverished people dismantle entire ships with their bare hands, hammers and blowtorches, carrying the heavy metal over their shoulders.
These people slog for paltry wages — as little as 20 cents per hour — and up to 12 hours every day without any safety measures and absolutely no protection. Many of these workers are young boys who descend into these ships in their dhoti (the traditional pants made with a sheet) and slippers made out of plastic.
Meanwhile, their employers discharge tons of toxic materials from the ships straight into the waters of the Bay of Bengal. It’s black, oily and foul-smelling here with an iridescent glaze of filth as far as the eye can see.