Ghent alderman expresses shock at child labour revelation

Summary

Ghent public works alderman Filip Watteeuw has expressed his disgust at the cobblestones in the city’s extensive development project being linked to child labour in northern India and promises better scrutiny in the future

“I’m not having it”

Filip Watteeuw, Ghent alderman for public works and mobility, said he can “no longer look in the same way at the squares” that have been paved with cobblestones linked to child labour in India. According to an investigative report in De Standaard newspaper, released at the weekend, many squares across Flanders are paved with such stones, including Ghent’s most central squares, recently repaved in a major development project.

De Standaard reported the widespread use of kandla grey cobblestones from Budhpura in northern India, where almost all the local people work in stone-cutting, including 1,300 children under 14 who do not go to school. Others work in the quarries after school to supplement their family’s income.

Ghent’s development of its city centre, which began in 2009 and is still underway, included repaving Korenmarkt (pictured) and Emile Braunplein, using the stones from India. “I’m not having it,” Watteeuw commented. “Certainly not in a city like Ghent, where working conditions have historically been of great importance. In future we will look into these cases more carefully. I don’t want this to happen again.”

The third and final phase of Ghent’s project includes repaving Botermarkt and the adjoining Belfortstraat. “I’m going to ask for an investigation of what can possibly be done for the last phase,” Watteeuw said, although he pointed out that the contract was agreed back in 2012. “Apparently the Belgian market looks towards the Indian market often when there are stones to be bought. Price is an important factor in that. In future, the extra cost of honest stones should not be a problem in Ghent.”

 

Photo: The opening ceremony of the renovated Korenmarkt

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