Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Kerala college stands on WTC girders

Those looking for Twin Tower souvenirs will discover in distant Kerala a private college that stands on steel girders re-forged from steel scrap at Ground Zero.

But neither the staff nor students at the Marxist-controlled Nilambur Co-operative College in Malappuram district took special note of the WTC connection on 9/11 anniversary on Monday.Co-operative college society president Devanand said he could neither confirm nor deny reports that the college had benefited by the imported WTC scrap. Local agent Ralco Industries offered the high quality steel at Rs11 a kilo when the market price was nearly Rs25 a kilo.

“We’d no idea it was forged from the WTC material. We’re looking for materials to build the college and this came in handy”, he reasoned.However, he said the local welders had noticed the markings “USA” and “WTC” on the steel. “Therefore, one might guess there was some WTC connection”, said Devanand. He vouchsafes for the quality of the imported “scrap”, saying local machines could not shred the girders.

The new college building was completed in 2003. Strong anti-US sentiments have perhaps prevented the college authorities from acknowledging the embarrassing fact about the American steel.

Ralco Industries could not be contacted on the phone. It was reported in 2002 that several vessels had sailed from New York with consignments of scrap and among them were extremely dense steel girders from Ground Zero, which could finally total between 250,000 to 400,000 tons.

One shipload onboard a vessel named Brozna landed at Chennai port in early January 2002. Two other ships, the Shen Quan Hai and Pindos, carrying World Trade Center scrap, berthed and offloaded their cargo in Chennai.

Selling and disposing of the scrap, despite tones of sentiments caught in mangled steel, was the brainchild of the New York City’s Design and Construction Department. It calculated that sale of steel to recyclers would fetch $75 to $100 a ton. Once cut and re-forged, it could then be resold for $220 to $600 a ton. However, relatives of victims were dismayed by crass commercialism as the yellow tape of a crime scene was quickly replaced by a “for sale” sign.

“It is true that steel is the most recyclable product in the world and that today’s twin towers could become tomorrow’s kitchen sink — as crass as that might sound. It is also true that steel has no memory.“However, we do. And as conscientious citizens of a global marketplace, we need to weigh the price tag of our memories on equal footing with potential international commerce,” wrote Ron Callari a freelance writer who lived in Jersey City, 100 yards from Hugo Neu Schnitzer East, one of the largest scrap recyclers in the US.

The Nilmabur college authorities may not reckon the building a WTC memorial but eventually the fact would sink in that they had put the scarp to best use — to set up a centre of learning.


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