Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) works for Asbestos Free India since 2002. Occupational Health India and ToxicsWatch Alliance are its members that includes occupational health doctors, researchers and activists. BANI demands criminal liability for companies and medico-legal remedy for victims. It works with trade unions, human rights, environmental and public health groups. For Details:firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, April 25, 2011
Human Rights Forum & Jana Vignana Vedika demand blanket ban on asbestos
BANI drew his attention towards the TOR for the proposed plant dated October 25, 2010 issued by Union Environment & Forests Ministry wherein 45 paragraph refers to “Detailed action plan for compliance of the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India regarding occupational health and safety measures in asbestos industries should be included” and how an order dated January 21, 2011, of Supreme Court’s bench of Chief Justice of India Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justice K.S. Panicker Radhakrishnan and Justice Swatanter Kumar has not been taken note of.
In the order it is observed in para 15 that, “the Government has already presented the Bill in Rajya Sabha. The statement of objects and reasons of this Bill specifically notices that the white asbestos is highly carcinogenic and it has been so reported by the World Health Organisation. In India, it is imported without any restriction while even its domestic use is not preferred by the exporting countries.”
The Bench of Chief Justice of India notes, “Canada and Russia are the biggest exporters of white asbestos. In 2007, Canada exported 95% of the white asbestos, it mined out of which 43% was shipped to India. In view of these facts, there is an urgent need for a total ban on the import and use of white asbestos and promote the use of alternative materials. The Bill is yet to be passed but it is clearly demonstrated that the Government is required to take effective steps to prevent hazardous impact of use of asbestos.”
BANI has submitted that the Environmental Management Plan mentioned in the Chapter 10 of the DREIA submitted to the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board (APPCB) does one respond to the work of WHO and International Labour Organization (ILO) towards elimination of asbestos-related diseases “by recognizing that the most efficient way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases is to stop the use of all types of asbestos and by providing information about solutions for replacing asbestos with safer substitutes and developing economic and technological mechanisms to stimulate its replacement.”
BANI has argued that the TOR for Sahyadri Industries Limited’s proposed asbestos sheet plant must be revised in the light of the above mentioned order of the Hon’ble Supreme Court. It is clear that the company in question should be made to submit the above mentioned observations of the Hon’ble Court and the Expert Appraisal Committee-1 (Industry) must re-visited.
BANI supports Human Rights Forum (HRF) and Jana Vignana Vedika (JVV) and their demand for a blanket ban on asbestos production and usage.
Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)
Human Rights Forum (HRF) and Jana Vignana Vedika (JVV) oppose asbestos unit
VIJAYAWADA: Human Rights Forum (HRF) and Jana Vignana Vedika (JVV) have demanded a blanket ban on asbestos production and usage.
A day ahead of the proposed public hearing on the proposed setting up of an asbestos cement sheets and accessories unit near Narsimharaopalem village in Veerulapadu mandal of Krishna district, they have rejected the move to set up the unit in Krishna District.
Asbestos was responsible for lakhs of deaths in the 20th century and continues to take a toll even in countries that have completely stopped its use such as Australia.
Workers employed in the asbestos processing sector and millions of construction workers exposed to asbestos during maintenance, renovation, and demolition activities were vulnerable to fatal cancerous diseases like ‘mesothelioma' and ‘asbestosis', HRF district convener P. Amar said in a release.
Experts oppose asbestos factory
VIJAYAWADA: Experts and leaders of the People's Organisations United Forum on Monday gave a call to oppose proposed asbestos cement sheets factory at Narasimharao Palem in Veerulapalem mandal in Krishna district as it would harm the lives of people in nearby villages.
At a round table organised here, environmental expert Babu Rao, and Jana Vignana Vedika leader Jampa Krishna Kishore said the people should express their disapproval to the asbestos factory at the public hearing to be held on April 21.
They said Pune-based Sahyadri Industries proposed to establish this plant with a capacity of 1.8 lakh tonnes.
Stating that the use of asbestos had been banned in 55 countries for its life-threatening qualities, Prof. Babu Rao alleged that the people's representatives and industrialists were colluding to establish such dangerous factories with least regard for public safety. He said a large number of workers and ordinary people died because of pollution from asbestos plants.
Village elders, youth differ on proposed asbestos firm
G.V.R. Subba Rao
Tense situation prevails at public hearing organised by Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board
— PHOTO: V. RAJU
HEATED EXCHANGES: Police preventing villagers from trying to create ruckus at a public hearing at Narasimharaopalem in Krishna district on Thursday.
NARASIMHARAOPALEM (Krishna Dt.): There is a divided opinion between the youth and the elderly in this village over proposed setting up of an asbestos cement sheets manufacturing company.
Police had to intervene when the youth tried to stop the elderly and environmentalists from speaking against the establishment of the factory during a public hearing organised by the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board here on Thursday.
The unemployed youth welcomed the setting up of the factory expecting jobs for some of them, while the aged were apprehensive of the environmental fallout of the manufacturing process that was banned all over the developed world.
Representatives of voluntary organisations such as Jana Vignana Vedika (JVV) and Rythu Coolie Sangham (RCS) had a tough time in presenting their arguments as the youth consistently opposed any view point against the company.
At one point of time, they rushed to the pulpit forcing JVV representative K. Babu Rao to end his speech abruptly.
Dr. Babu Rao, however, contended that no asbestos was safe.
Even white fibre was not declared as safe. Exposure to asbestos causes wide range of diseases including lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis, he said.
‘Violation of law'
The RCS assistant secretary Veerbabu pointed out that permissions were in violation of law, and the village panchayat had not passed any resolution. The behaviour of youth irked the aged, which resulted in an affray.
The police had to intervene and disburse the agitated mob.
The Sahyadri Industries Limited proposes to set up the factory.
The company advisor T. S. Nageswara Rao said that the management would take all the necessary precautions to ensure that the company did not pose any environmental and health problems.
The management would invest Rs.29.70 crore to set up the industry, which would provide employment to the villagers.
Y. Maheswara Reddy of Hyderabad-based Pioneer Enviro Labs, who prepared environmental impact assessment study, said the company would use white fibre, which was not carcinogenic, as raw material for manufacturing the cement sheets. District Additional Joint Collector Muralidhar Reddy conducted the proceedings.
The APPCB environmental engineer S. Venkateswarlu was among the others who were present.
Critique of the REIA
Proposed Asbestos Cement plant
M/s Sahyadri Industries Ltd, Narasimharaopalem
Yet another asbestos cement plant is proposed near Vijayawada in Krishna District, AP. Three are already in production.
Hyderabad Industries Ltd, IDA, Kondapalli
Ramco Industries Ltd, Ibrahimpatnam
Visaka Industries Ltd, Jujjuru
Proposed project of M/s Sahyadri Industries Ltd at Narasimharaopalem becomes the fourth in the area if permitted. Asbestos is a banned substance in 55 countries. World Health Organisation, International Labour Organisation, International Agency for Research on Cancer, US Environmental Protection Agency and others consider all forms of asbestos, including chrysotile as carcinogenic. All these organisations recommend worldwide ban on use of asbestos.
According to WHO “Exposure to asbestos causes a range of diseases, such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs), as well as pleural plaques, thickening and effusions. There is also evidence that it causes laryngeal and possibly some other cancers.”1
“No threshold has been identified for the carcinogenic risk of chrysotile. Cigarette smoking increases the risk of lung cancer from asbestos exposure.”1
“WHO is committed to work with countries towards elimination of asbestos related diseases in the following strategic directions:
- by recognizing that the most efficient way to eliminate asbestos related diseases is to stop the use of all types of asbestos.”1
World Health Organisation (WHO) believes asbestos to be the most important occupational carcinogen, causing 54% of all deaths from occupational cancers3.
The plight of workers in asbestos cement plants in India is evident from the following excerpt from a paper by Castleman and Joshi.3 “The plight of Indian asbestos workers was placed before the Supreme Court of India through a writ of petition filed by the Consumer Education and Research Centre (CERC), Gujarat. The judges directed the Union and state governments “to review the standards of permissible exposure limit value of fibre... in tune with the international standards reducing the permissible limit”. The court directed the NIOH to examine employees in the asbestos industries and to certify cases of disability. Ten years later, less than 30 had been compensated for occupational disease from asbestos, out of an estimated workforce of 100,000 people exposed to asbestos in India.”3
When France banned asbestos use within its country Canada filed a case before World Trade Organisation as restricting its right to trade in asbestos. After considering the arguments and evidence brought before a panel of experts, WTO announced its decision in September 2000. “In the end the four experts agreed that (a) there is no safe level of exposure to any kind of asbestos (b) “controlled use” as defined by Canada is unrealistic and not known to occur anywhere in the world, and (c) safer substitutes for chrysotile asbestos products are available.”2
“The WTO affirmed a country’s right to ban a deadly substance as a means of absolute protection from it.”2
Under these circumstances and recent protests from people of Bihar against 6 proposed asbestos plants that made the Bihar CM to refuse permission for those plants, it is unfortunate that MoEF has issued ToR to M/s Sahyadri Industries Ltd to setup a plant in AP.
A battery plant M/s. Energy Leaders (India) Ltd – Manufacturers of Industrial Lead Acid Batteries is in the neighbourhood of the proposed plant. All toxics plants are located in poor and backward neighbourhoods all over the world. As the people are unaware of the consequences from exposure to asbestos and other toxics and the public institutions established to protect these people from toxic hazards never care about them, such projects are imposed on poor people. Cost benefit analysis also favours such locations as the poor peoples’ lives are considered cheap.
Quality of REIA Report:
As usual it is a report in favour of the company that paid the consultancy fee and is not an objective impact study. The quality is poor and no attempt is made to look at the impacts thoroughly. It is just done to fulfill regulatory requirement. Some statements made in the report are quoted here to indicate the quality of the report.
“With the 10 % growth of population, every year, the demand for AC Sheets also is increasing year by year. Hence, there is a need to set up new units every year, to cater to the needs of demand growth.” (P2-1)
This is the justification given for the need for the project. This statement shows that the EIA consultant Pioneer Enviro does not have basic knowledge on demographics. At 10% growth the population will double in every 7 years and by 2040 the world population will reach 112 billion, a mindboggling number. World today cannot afford even 1% population growth.
ToR at serial numbers 9 and 11 are not complied with. Groundwater level data and its fluctuation for the last five years is not provided. Geotechnical data is not made part of REIA and it is stated that it will be submitted later. People are being eliminated from the process of scrutiny of EIA and it is being turned into an exclusive affair between MoEF bureaucrats, their chosen experts and the companies. This is a subversion of democracy.
“A full fledged training centre will be established at Sahyadri Industries Ltd. Safety training will be provided by the safety officers with the assistance of faculty members called from professional safety institutions and universities. In addition to regular employees, contractor laborers will also given safety training.” (P7-15)
The employment generated is 20 skilled, 40 semiskilled and 315 unskilled. (P8-1) Visaka Industries at Jujjuru is using unskilled labour brought from Eastern part of India. Statement in the report that Priority will be given to local people within 10 Km, radius (P8-2) is not trustworthy. So the actual employees on rolls will be only 60. Rest of them will be contract labour with hardly any protections. So there is no obligation for the company to employ a safety officer as per the factories act. Consultants are unaware that none of the universities in AP offer any courses or programmes in safety. There are hardly any quality diploma or degree programmes in safety programmes in this country. Even IIT’s do not offer any safety course in its academic programmes. A private engineering college in Gujarat offers a Masters programme Industrial Hygiene, Sri Ramachandra University, Chennai offers a part time M Sc in Industrial Hygiene and Safety and NIT, Tiruchurapalli offers M Tech in Safety Engineering in collaboration with BHEL there. There are one or two distance education diploma programmes but not of any quality. Safety culture is absent in our academic and research institutions.
“The project proponent intends to conduct regular health checkups in the surrounding villages.” (P7-16)
This is a routine claim made by all companies but never implemented. It is an eyewash to win goodwill of local people before EPH.
A safety officer will be appointed for identification of the hazardous conditions and unsafe acts of workers and advice on corrective actions, conduct safety audit and advice on various issues related to occupational safety and health. (P7-15)
As we understand there is no qualified full time safety officer in any of the asbestos cement plants in AP.
“Nose Masks made of cotton clothing material” (7-13)
Asbestos fibre is about 1/700 in diameter compared to human hair and the EIA suggesting use of cloth masks over nose to protect the workers from exposure is absolute non-sense. It indicates what kind of protection employees will get at workplace. With a highly corrupt and inept regulatory system that is prevailing in the state hardly any of the claims made in EIA are truly followed. Asbestos industry all over the world has been deceptive and criminal in exposing employees knowing fully well the consequences. In 1999, “Florida Supreme Court rules that Owens Corning willfully withheld information about the danger of working with the company's asbestos products: "It would be difficult to envision a more egregious set of circumstances . . . . a blatant disregard for human safety involving large numbers of people put at life-threatening risk."4 There are several more similar judgements in USA alone exposing the criminality of the asbestos companies. With the government of India encouraging the industry with reduced taxes, it is highly profitable with hardly any operating costs relative to other industries. With hardly any highly qualified people required as employees the salary bills are low.
Plant requires 354 m3/day of water and all of it is proposed to be drawn from groundwater. The area mostly comprises of drylands and the ground water potential is also not high. No data on groundwater potential for the area is given in the report. Veerullapadu Mandal to which the Narasimharaopalem belongs has the least number of 450 borewells with electric motor driven pumpsets in the Krishna district. It is mainly because of low groundwater potential. With 900 mm/year rain fall the recharge of groundwater in the plant premises is at best 2.2 ha.m/year while the withdrawal rate is 11.7 ha.m/year. It harms agriculture and domestic water needs of people.
Water balance diagram given in the REIA report reproduced below shows cooling tower makeup. But the report does not specify use of boilers or process cooling water system.
“A blend of Asbestos Fiber of different grades will be wet ground in Edge Runner Mill and then fed to a Hydro Disintegrator where approximately 25 to 35 times (of weight of fiber) of water will be fed.” (P2-16)
Considering 330 working days, asbestos feed rate is 12888/330 = 39.05 TPD
Water required in Hydro Disintegrator = 39 x 30 = 1170 m3/day
Storage and Recirculation of asbestos contaminated water has to take place in the process.
“The annual budgetary allocation for Environmental monitoring is Rs. 10 Lakhs. A third party will be engaged to monitor all the environmental parameters as per CPCB / APPCB norms.” (P6-4)
The company will outsource monitoring of the environmental quality to a third party and the meager amount set apart for the purpose indicates the quality of monitoring expected. This is only to complete regulatory formalities on paper.
Plant requires large quantities of raw materials to be brought for processing and then send the product asbestos cement sheets to the market. It involves moving about 350,000 TPA. That is about 35000 trips of 10 ton capacity trucks in a year. It amounts to about 100 truck trips to and from the plant on average. It adds to traffic hazards and air pollution. No mention is made of this in the REIA.
The whole of chapter 7 is garbage to fill the pages and has no relevance to the project. For example, the report mainly deals with fire that is not a real hazard for this process as none of the raw materials except pulp is combustible. There is no mention of the health hazards of asbestos under the subhead occupational health and surveillance. It is highly unethical of the consultant to mask that information.
The claims in the report regarding safe handling are bogus. The following excerpt from a testimony of a US official shows how hollow those claims are. “On the subject of controlled use, Infante (the only government official among the experts) testified that OSHA issued over 4,000 citations for violating the OSHA asbestos standard from 1996 to 1998.” 2
The report mostly talked about unrealistic fire risk leaving actual process hazards. For example, failure of recirculating waterline to Hydro Disintegrator which is within the realm of possibility is not considered.
Probably, there is no other industry that has killed so many workers and people, so many books are written on and so many court cases are filed against in the world. It is pity that Indian officials are blind to facts.
1. Elimination of Asbestos related diseases, WHO Factsheet 2006
2. Barry Castleman, WTO Confidential: The Case of Asbestos
3. Barry I. Castleman, Tushar Kant Joshi, The global asbestos struggle today, Eur. J. Oncol., vol. 12, n. 3, pp. 149-154, 2007
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