Make India Asbestos Free

Make India Asbestos Free
For Asbestos Free India

Journal of Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) that works for Asbestos Free India inspired by trade union leader Purnendu Majumadar. Occupational Health India and ToxicsWatch Alliance are its members that includes doctors, researchers and activists. BANI demands criminal liability for companies and medico-legal remedy for victims. It works with trade unions, human rights, environmental, consumer and public health groups. For Details: 1715krishna@gmail.com

Sunday, October 21, 2007

IMO's Ship Recycling Convention undermines International environmental laws

Alang ship breaking yard is part of the global shipbreaking crisis. The Basel Convention, International Maritime Organization, European Union, US, Ban Asbestos Networking of India (BANI), Basel Action Network and Platform on ship-breaking besides Supreme Court of India are seized with the problem.

Asbestos decontamination is one of the key concerns in the ship-breaking industry. Asbestos waste export and import is banned in India but it is being argued by the Indian Ministry of Environment & Forests that asbestos waste when it is part of the structure it need not be deemed asbestos waste-implying the impossible condition where asbestos waste will exist in a virgin manner and would not be embedded in some structure.

In such a context the Green Paper on Better Ship Dismantling (Green Paper of EU) is a welcome step even as it is clear that it does not, as yet go far enough in assuming a global leadership role and pressing for the needed proactive reform on what has been a glaring lapse in sustainability and justice in international ship recycling, fostered too long by governments that have been cowed by a powerful shipping industry.

Shipbreaking as it is practiced today by the shipping industry and for the last twenty years, is a classic policy failure in all aspects of the “triple bottom line” -- of social, environmental and economic yardsticks. Its current “profitability” is maintained solely due to a sanctioned and institutionalized gross cost externalization, where the polluter has all-too conveniently not had to pay and the very real human and environmental price is rather paid, by virtue of unfettered free markets, by those too politically or financially weak to be able to ever present the bill. Thus, the trade in toxic ships to developing countries for hazardous waste “management” must be seen not only as an affront to morality, human rights and the environment, but also as an affront to sound and efficient economics, as ship owners are given carte blanche to ride the waves of economic distortion provided by ease of externalization via globalization. In this game of avoidance, the true environmental and social costs fail to be recorded on the ledgers but are rather recorded in the scandal sheet snapshots of the contaminated beaches and dead and dying workers in India.

The Basel Convention was created in large part to prevent this form of cost externalization, this exploitation of weaker economies and workforces, this disproportionate burdening of desperate workers with harm. It called for producer responsibility and national self-sufficiency in hazardous waste management universally and in 1995 the Convention passed a global export ban (Basel Ban Amendment) for the OECD/EU/Liechtenstein group on the export of hazardous waste of all kinds for any reason to insure that national self sufficiency is first practiced by the rich developed countries. The European Union to their great credit not only took leadership in passing the Basel Ban but moreover was quick to implement it through the Waste Shipment Regulation.

Due to the constant mobility of ships and the disassociation of flag states (i.e. flags of convenience) with ownership or economic beneficiaries, it is well understood that neither the Basel Convention nor the Waste Shipment Regulation (WSR) is well suited to regulate ships that might seek to circumvent the Basel or WSR controls and bans. Nevertheless it is absolutely vital that the EU, in its shipbreaking policy does not retreat from the principles of the Basel Convention and the Waste Shipment Regulation simply because ships are more difficult to regulate as hazardous waste than is their cargo. Rather they must move aggressively to plug the loopholes rather than institutionalize them.

Just as the EU has been the backbone upholding the Basel Convention and the Basel Ban Amendment to date globally, the EU must assume a global leadership role in upholding established principle and develop policy that not only is consistent with the Waste Shipment Regulation for ships, but works to create that level playing field of responsibility worldwide.

Unfortunately the EU is already stepping away from established principles embodied in the Basel Convention and Waste Shipment Regulation in their negotiations at the International Maritime Organization as that body deliberates on a new Convention on Ship Recycling (IMO Convention). While the Basel Convention Parties, the European Council, and the Environment Commissioner Dimas have repeatedly called for an “equivalent level of control” to be established in the IMO Convention, so far the EU has failed to aggressively take action to ensure such equivalency and the shipping industry dominated IMO has forged ahead with a regime which by design, places responsibility away from ship-owners or states with jurisdiction over ship-owners and instead has placed the few responsibilities currently obligated under the new regime on flag states (e.g. flags of convenience) and on recycling states. Both of these groups of states have little incentive to provide diligent regulation as both are current economic beneficiaries of the unaccountable status quo.

It is clear that if the EU does not step forward to uphold international principles, we will witness a dramatic turning back of the clock in an age where environmental issues need far more rigor and not less.

India and EU must assert the agreed principles of Basel Convention at the International Maritime Organization that is now being negotiated but it utterly fails in the first instance to minimize the transboundary movements of hazardous wastes on board ships, and to prevent their disproportionate burdening of such harm on weaker economies, communities and laborers. It is devoid of the basic principles now well established in international law and policy including the precautionary principle, the substitution principle, the polluter pays principle, the principle of environmental justice, the principle of producer responsibility, the principle of common but differentiated responsibility, the principle of corporate social responsibility etc.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Ban Asbestos America Act passed unanimously

Press Release

New Delhi: Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) appreciates the U.S. Senate for passing Ban Asbestos in America Act. The bill was passed on October 04, 2007. US Senate unanimously passed Senator Patty Murray's bill to ban all forms of asbestos, bringing the legislation closer to enactment than at any point since Murray launched her effort to protect families and workers six years ago to reach this historic milestone.

Stories of the toll asbestos takes on people are yet to hit the headlines in India as has been the case in US, Europe, Australia and Japan. The recent UN statistics indicates that India imported roughly 306,000 MT of asbestos in 2006. Out of which 152, 820 MT was imported from Russia, 63, 980 MT from Canada, 48, 807 MT from Kazakhstan and 34, 953 MT from Brazil. Asbestos is a proven human carcinogen (a substance which can cause cancer). No safe level can be proposed for asbestos cement pipes because a threshold is not known to exist. Currently mining of all kinds of asbestos is banned in India. Trade in asbestos waste is also banned. Besides all other forms of asbestos other than Chrysotile asbestos (White Asbestos) is prohibited in India.

BANI is dedicated to serving as the voice of asbestos victims, who are totally disregarded by Indian political parties of all colours both in the states and at national level unlike US and Europe. The countries that have banned asbestos include Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Chile, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom (including England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), Uruguay and others.

Indian homes are often built of asbestos cement roofs, and people cut their own windows and doorways. Research is showing asbestos epidemics across the globe even in countries where it is currently banned, as the consequence of past exposure. While white asbestos mining is currently banned in India, its import, export or use in manufacturing is permitted. But recently, the Ministry of Mines has indicated that it may lift the mining ban.

The Ban Asbestos in America Act, 2007 is an effort to ban all production and use of asbestos in America, launch public education campaigns to raise awareness about its dangers and expand research and treatment of diseases caused by asbestos. "This is a historic day in the fight to protect Americans. Workers and their families deserve a future free of deadly asbestos exposure, and I'm not stopping until this bill is signed into law," Murray said. "I’m very pleased that Senators from both sides of the aisle came together to unanimously support my bill. I especially want to thank Senator Johnny Isakson for his bipartisan leadership in moving this bill forward. I also want to commend Senator Barbara Boxer who championed this bill from the start and led its quick passage through her Environment and Public Works Committee."

“This bill is the culmination of months of bipartisan work to find common ground on this important issue, and I extremely pleased the Senate acted so quickly to approve it,” Isakson said. “For the few areas where asbestos is still used in the United States, this bill provides a reasonable transition so that Americans can rid themselves of asbestos once and for all.”

BANI appeals to the United Progressive Alliance government to take cognizance of all asbestos victims and their families, and act as a future protector of generations to come, helping to ensure a safer environment for us all. "We look forward to the day when asbestos disease will no longer needlessly claim lives in India and the concerned industry will be held accountable for not preventing incurable but preventable cancers."

The occurrence of asbestos-related diseases, including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis, is growing out of control. Studies estimate that during the next decade, in India victims will die of an asbestos related disease at the rate of 30 deaths per day.
Because of this bill, US is poised to join the more than 40 nations that have banned asbestos because it is deadly. This bill was long overdue. With this US would ban asbestos, invest in research and treatment, and launch a public education campaign. Indian government is yet to take lessons from these nations to safeguard its citizens.

For details: BANI, Web: banasbestosindia.blogspot.com, Mb: 9818089660, E-mail-toxicswatch@gmail.com

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