Make India Asbestos Free

Make India Asbestos Free
For Asbestos Free India

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:krishna1715@gmail.com, oshindia@yahoo.in, toxicswatchallaince@gmail.com

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Supreme Court asks central govt to regulate asbestos activities

Concerned at the cancerous effect asbestos has on human health, the Supreme Court (SC) has directed the Centre to consider setting up a body to regulate manufacture of the fiber-based material.

Refraining from treading the path of legislature, which is already seized of a bill seeking ban on asbestos, the court said the regulatory body must be considerate to the health of workmen involved in mining or manufacturing asbestos.

Acting under Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, the authorities should ensure all “appropriate and protective steps to meet specified standards are taken by the industry before or at the time of issuance of environmental clearance”.

A bench headed by Chief Justice SH Kapadia has refused to ban asbestos, but it feels that it’s imperative to issue the directions in order to “strike a balance between health hazards posed by this activity and the ground reality that a large number of families all over the country are dependent for livelihood on it”.

White asbestos is highly carcinogenic. Countries, mainly Canada and Russia, which export it to India without restriction prefer not to use it domestically. In 2007, Canada exported almost 90% of white asbestos it mined, 43% of it to India.

US-based Drexel University professor and chair of department of environmental and occupational health Arthur Frank warns, “We can expect a lot more death and disease in India. There is no champion for elimination or reduction in use of asbestos.”


Published: Monday, Jan 24, 2011, 0:13 IST
By Rakesh Bhatnagar | Place: New Delhi

http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_supreme-court-asks-central-govt-to-regulate-asbestos-activities_1498389

Note: The bench comprising Chief Justice of India SH Kapadia, Justice Panicker Radhakrishnan and Justice Swatanter Kumar has further directed “we direct that if Union of India considers it proper and in public interest, after consulting the States where there are large number of asbestos industries in existence, it should constitute a regulatory body to exercise proper control and supervision over manufacturing of asbestos activities while ensuring due regard to the aspect of health care of the workmen involved in such activity. It may even constitute a Committee of such experts as it may deem appropriate to effectively prevent and control its hazardous effects on the health of the workmen”.

BANI Condemns Police Brutality on Anti-Asbestos Villagers




Press Release

BANI Condemns Police Brutality on Anti-Asbestos Villagers

Bihar Takes Singur Path, for Asbestos based Industrialization Six Asbestos Plants in the Offing
BANI SEEKS IMMEDIATE INTERVENTION OF UNION ENVIRONMENT MINISTER & BIHAR CHIEF MINISTER

New Delhi/Patna 23/1/2011: Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) condemns the lathi charge and police firing on villagers of Chainpur-Bishunpur, Marwan, Muzaffarpur, Bihar who are protesting against the construction of proposed asbestos plants. The colossal ignorance of Bihar government about the fact that more than 55 countries have banned asbestos of all kinds including chrystotile (white) asbestos is shocking.
BANI supports the Asbestos Virodhi Nagrik Manch and Khet Bachao Jeewan Bachao Jan Sangharsh Committee and their efforts to save present and future generations from the exposures of killer fibers of white asbestos.

BANI appeals to the Chief Minister and the Union Environment Minister, the concerned organizations and political parties to visit those villagers including women who have been injured in police firing to take stock of the situation in order to prevent the peaceful movement against asbestos plant from becoming violent.

Bihar government must assure the villagers and their committee that no police action will be allowed in future and those policemen responsible for such violence will be punished. It is learnt that some 20 people have suffered due to lathi charge and police firing and they are admitted in the hospitals. The injured include Sheela Devi, Rajo Devi, Sidheshwar Ram, Ganga Ram, Hare Krishna, Manoj Paswan, Suhati Devi, Kalash Devi, Saroj Kumar and several others.

The Chief Minister must intervene at the earliest to avoid such blood soaked industrialization and promote sustainable agro-based industries. The cases against the leaders of Khet Bachao Jeewan Bachao Jan Sangharsh Committee who have been framed must be withdrawn. Encouraging hazardous industries like asbestos based plants which is one of 64 heavily polluting industries under Red Category is quite myopic.
BANI calls on the Bihar Industries Association (BIA) and Bihar Chamber of Commerce (BCC) to persuade the proponents of the asbestos plants to establish plants which would could act as alternatives of the killer fibers as is being done in over 55 countries.

Instead of educating itself about the incurable diseases caused by the killer fibers of asbestos and the impossibility any technology in the world to save villagers and its workers, it is quite absurd for the Bihar Government to construction with the help of Police force akin to what seemed to have been attempted in Singur, West Bengal.

Bihar government should re-visit the Biology and Chemistry text books of Class Xth and Intermediate taught in its schools all over the state. These textbooks reveal that asbestos causes incurable diseases like asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. The Class XIIth textbook titled Inter Rasayan at page no. 2-345 categorically says, “Asbestos is a particulate pollutant of the atmosphere. In the process of preparation of asbestos sheet, the asbestos particles become airborne. If one breathes such air for a long period it causes asbestosis disease”.

Unmindful of this some 12 asbestos based plants are proposed in Bihar. It is also apprehended that some cement plants have hidden the fact that their factories are asbestos based cement plants.

BANI appeals to Bihar government and the Union Environment Ministry to stop the proposed asbestos plants in Bihar. These include:

1) Chennai based Ramco Industries Ltd for establishment of 1,20,000 MT/Annum Capacity of Asbestos Cement Sheet Plant and 2 Lakh MT/Annum Capacity of Cement Grinding Plant at Industrial Area, Bihiya, Bhojpur
2) Chennai based Nibhi Industries Pvt. Ltd for establishment of the One Lakh MT Capacity Asbestos Fiber Cement Corrugated Sheet, Flat Sheet and Accessories and Light Weight Fly Ash Block Plant at Industrial Growth Centre, Giddha, Ara, Bhojpur
3) Andhra Pradesh based Hyderabad Industries Ltd for establishment of 2,50,000 MT per year capacity Asbestos Cement Sheeting Plant in two Phases at Kumarbagh Industrial Area, West Champaran
4) Kolkata based Balmukund Cement & Roofings Ltd for establishment of 1.5 Lakh MT capacity production unit of Asbestos Fiber Cement Sheet (Corrugated/Flat) and Accessories at Chainpur-Bishunpur, Marwan, Muzaffarpur
5) Kolkata based UAL Industries Ltd for Establishment of 2, 33, 000 MT per year capacity Asbestos Cement Sheet and Corrugated Sheets Plant in two phases at Goraul, Vaishali in the name of UAL-Bihar. Earlier it was proposed at Bakhtiyarpur
6) Rajasthan based A Infrastructure Ltd for establishment of 1, 25, 000 MT per year capacity Asbestos Cement (A.C.) Sheet and 1,00,000 MT per year capacity A.C. Pressure Pipe at Pandaul Industrial Area, Madhubani. Earlier it was proposed in Industrial Area, Kumarbagh, Bettiah

Residents of Bhojpur, Bettiah, Vaishali, Madhubani, West Champaran, Muzaffarpur and other places in Bihar where Chrysotile (white asbestos) based plants are faced with the disastrous consequences of various types of cancers, including lung cancer and mesothelioma. Epidemiological and toxicological studies and laboratory experiments have demonstrate this and established it the impossibility of safe and controlled use of white asbestos myth about which are being propagated by the government having been misled by the industry.

Will the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, Commerce Minister, Anand Sharma and Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh see the writing on the wall and act to take steps to make our country asbestos free and not succumb to pressure from asbestos companies? The writing is attached.

For Details: Gopal Krishna, Convener, Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)/Asbestos Mukti Andolan, Mb: 09818089660, 07739308480, E-mail:krishna2777@gmail.com
Blog:banasbestosindia.blogspot.com

It is high time India banned asbestos

An open letter to environment minister Jairam Ramesh
http://www.governancenow.com/news/public-reporter/open-letter-environment-minister-jairam-ramesh

s high time India banned asbestos

An open letter to environment minister Jairam Ramesh
http://www.governancenow.com/news/public-reporter/open-letter-environment-minister-jairam-ramesh

Marwan asbestos saga takes ugly turn

Marwan asbestos saga takes ugly turn

Shoumojit Banerjee
Patna: The battle over the proposed asbestos factory in the village of Bishnupur-Chainpur in Bihar's Muzaffarpur district took yet another sordid turn on Saturday as the district police resorted to lathi-charge and firing to disperse the demonstrators, injuring at least a dozen villagers, four of them women.

The village, which falls under Muzaffarpur's Marwan lock, has been on the boil since July with villagers and activists consistently opposing the construction of Kolkata-based Balmukund Cement and Roofing Ltd (BCRL)'s 31 crore factory, alleging flagrant violation of procedural norms and non-disclosure of health hazards on part of the company management.

The incident took place in the afternoon when a large group of villagers sat on a ‘dharna' to protest against the construction of the company.

“It was then that the district police beat up some of the villagers, while lobbing tear gas shells to disperse them. When a large crowd of residents gathered to protest [against] this, the police resorted to firing,” said Ram Naresh Prasad Singh, convener of the Khet Bachao Jeevan Bachao Sangharsh Samiti, a local forum set up to combat the asbestos threat on the district.

The injured villagers have been admitted to a local district hospital.

The Muzaffarpur District Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police have not reacted to the incident, despite efforts to contact them.

“The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) had warned the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) on Monday that there was a strong possibility of a bloodbath in Bishnupur-Chainpur if present conditions are allowed to persist,” said Mr. Gopal Krishna, Convener of the Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI).

Despite assurances by Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh to look into the matter, this is the second such incident in a month after villagers alleged firing by company-hired minions to disrupt proceedings in December.

The MoEF had given environmental clearance to BCRL in October 2010.

Angry protests

Apart from Chainpur, there have been angry protests by villagers and activists against the two asbestos plants to be set up in Bhojpur district as well.

The first such plant is to be set up by Chennai-based Ramco Industries Ltd. in Bhojpur's Bihiya block. The proposal is to establish a 120,000 MT/annum capacity of Asbestos Cement Sheet Plant and a 2 lakh MT/annum capacity of Asbestos Grinding Plant at Industrial Area.

The second one, a 1 Lakh MT Capacity Asbestos Fiber Cement Corrugated Sheet, is to be set up by the Chennai-based Nibhi Industries Pvt. Ltd at Giddha in Ara.

http://www.hindu.com/2011/01/23/stories/2011012359471200.htm

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bihar's Proposed Asbestos Plant Makes Fraudulent Claims

Villagers nail EIA lies

Draft report says:

  • The EIA project consultant, Shiva Test House, says project land is barren
  • Dwells on the population within a 10 km radius to hide the population density near the site
  • Shows Roksa village at 3 km distance from site; mentions a river Baya
  • Project will draw 300 cubic metre groundwater daily but does not show what impact it will have on people

Ground reality:

  • The site and its adjoining farms grow mangoes, lychees, wheat, rice, seasonal vegetables and mustard
  • The site is surrounded by eight schools and eight villages with populations ranging from 8,000 to 20,000.
  • Roksa is 600-700 metres from the site; there is no river Baya in the area
  • No surveys conducted for preparing baseline data

Earlier story

Asbestos unit disturbs Chainpur’s peace
Anand Kishore, District Magistrate
image

image

Work started at the site in January, 2010 illegally, without environmental clearance

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Raging Grannies protest against asbestos exports

Raging Grannies protest against asbestos exports

Montreal Gazette January 17, 2011

Monique Beaudin http://www.montrealgazette.com/Raging+Grannies+protest+against+asbestos+exports/4122514/story.html#ixzz1BLU4c8bX

clip_image002

Members of the Raging Grannies group talk to police during their protest Monday outside the Sherbroke St. building where Premier Jean Charest has his office. The group was protesting exports of asbestos to countries such as India, “where they don’t have strict rules and don’t really know how to use the stuff properly,” said Joan Hadrill, 80. “We say that’s really unethical and immoral to do that.”

Photograph by: Pierre Obendrauf, Montreal Gazette

clip_image004

By Monique Beaudin, Montreal Gazette January 17, 2011

MONTREAL - Montreal’s Raging Grannies had an earful for Premier Jean Charest on Monday, when they showed up outside his Montreal office. Wearing their customary outrageous hats and bundled up against the cold in bright layers of colourful clothing, the nine women sang “I’ve been working with asbestos” to the tune of “I’ve been Working on the Railroad”, including lyrics like “Asbestos has been proven to kill, kill, kill.”

“Quebec and Canada have basically banned asbestos for building, yet we think it’s okay to ship it to other countries like India, where they don’t have strict rules and don’t really know how to use the stuff properly,” said Joan Hadrill, 80, who has been a member of Montreal’s Raging Grannies for the past 21 years. “We say that’s really unethical and immoral to do that.”

The women taped an “asbestos manifesto” to the glass doors of the Sherbrooke St. office tower, calling for Quebec to halt asbestos exports and for the federal and provincial governments to stop funding the industry’s Chrysotile Institute.

Quebec is considering whether to give a $58-million loan guarantee to a company that wants to expand the Jeffrey mine in Asbestos in the Eastern Townships.

The World Health Organization, Canadian Medical Association and the Association pour la santé publique du Québec have all called on the province to stop exporting asbestos, which is linked to cancer and lung disease. A poll done last week found that three-quarters of Quebecers oppose the Jeffrey Mine loan guarantee.

mbeaudin@montrealgazette.com

twitter.com/moniquebeaudin

Left parties against setting up asbestos unit

PATNA: Four Left parties on Thursday jointly sought immediate intervention of CM Nitish Kumar to stop the setting up of an asbestos factory at Chainpur-Vishunpur village in Marwan block of Muzaffarpur district.

Leaders of the CPI, CPM, CPI(ML) and SUCI feared that the factory would not only cause environmental hazards to the "bahu fasli" (multi-cropping) fertile land but would also cause health problems for the people living near the factory site.

On January 12, a four-member team constituted by the four parties conducted a probe into the existing situation in the area. It felt that the area lying within the 500-metre radius of the factory was fast turning into a potential flashpoint with old men, women and schoolchildren taking to the streets against the setting up of the factory .

The four-member probe team consisted of CPI state executive member Vijay Narayan Mishra, CPM state secretariat member Arun Mishra, CPI(ML) state secretariat member Dhirendra Jha and Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI) state secretariat member Arun Kumar Singh.

Read more: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/patna/Left-parties-against-setting-up-asbestos-unit-/articleshow/7279661.cms#ixzz1BPefstRv

Ramesh issues notice to Bihar on new asbestos plants

Hit by international and domestic reports that asbestos can pose huge public health risk, the Environment ministry has sought an explanation from the Bihar government for allowing such plants in poverty-hit Muzaffarnagar district in north part of the state. Bihar government has given permission for setting up as many as 12 plants for manufacturing asbestos laden cement roofing sheets, whose demand has increase phenomenally in Bihar in recent years.

The plants based on Chrysotile - the chemical name for white asbestos, which accounts for more than 95% of the present world trade in asbestos -- has resulted in stiff resistance from locals because of its possible health impact.

While the locals have been petitioning environment minister Jairam Ramesh since May 2010, he has apparently acted on view of health experts who said that white asbestos in any form could be carcinogenic and as many as 54 countries have banned the asbestos among Indian states, Kerala has banned use of asbestos in school buildings.

But, Bihar allowed the plants as part of its industry-friendly policy to attract investments.

Ramesh on Tuesday confirmed that explanation has been sought but refused to divulge the details.

"Asbestos is a highly hazardous material to human health and both - occupational as well as non-occupational exposures -- are associated with mesothelioma and other malignancies among humans," said Sanjay Chaturvedi, head of Department of Community Medicine, Faculty of Medical Science in the Delhi University.

He was one of the experts whose opinion was a reaction for ministry's action. The minister had also examined a recent study by Lancet report, which quoted a World Health Organisation report to say that 125 million people around the world are exposed to asbestos risk.

In the past, Ramesh has banned asbestos laden US ship to come to Alang but the government has failed to declare a national policy on asbestos in absence of a comprehensive scientific study on its impact.

The Ahmedabad based National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) has been asked to conduct a study on environment and health impacts of asbestos in the work zone and assess its impact on workers and those living in the vicinity. The institute is yet to submit its report even though officially the ministry has described asbestos as "safe".

Mining asbestos in India is banned but its use in manufacturing sector is allowed. Most of raw asbestos is imported from Russia and Canada.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Ramesh-issues-notice-to-Bihar-on-new-asbestos-plants/Article1-651953.aspx

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hazards of Killer Asbestos Fibers in Bihar

To

Shri Jairam Ramesh
Union Minister of Environment & Forests
Government of India

Subject-Hazards of Killer Asbestos Fibers in Bihar

Dear Sir,

With reference to the news report "Govt move to soothe tempers-Union minister orders report on asbestos unit" and pursuant to my first conversation with you on the issue of asbestos industry in India, I recollect that you were quite aware of the hazards of this mineral fiber and how its safe and controlled use was impossible. As a result some 55 countries have banned it. The list of countries that have banned and restricted it is attached along with few pictures of protest against the proposed plant in Bihar.

The researchers suggest the asbestos cancer pandemic may kill more than 10 million people in total
before asbestos is banned globally. (Sourced: LaDou, J., Castleman, B., Frank, A. et al. (2010). The Case for a Global Ban on Asbestos. Environmental Health Perspectives. 118(7): 897-901)

I have learnt from the above news report that you have asked for a report on the Ban Asbestos Movement underway against the first such plant in Muzaffarpur, Bihar. A similar plant is under construction in Bihiya, Bhojpur, Bihar and have learnt that at least 10 such plants are in the offing in the state. I had written several letters to you in this regard. The details of the movement are available on BANI's blog.

The plant in question in Bihar must be stopped so that such hazardous industries to not find any root there.

However, it will be a complex task to respond to each plant and each such protest. Chrysotile (white asbestos), accounts for almost 100 per cent of the asbestos currently produced and used around the world and for 95 per cent of the historical use of asbestos since 1900. Epidemiological and toxicological studies and laboratory experiments demonstrate that it does cause various types of cancers, including lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Therefore, I wish to make few suggestions for your considerations.

Taking cognisance of the international legal position and the absurdity of banning asbestos mining and allowing import of white asbestos from Canada (which has a no home use policy) & other countries, there is a compelling legal, medical and humanitarian logic for a national ban on it. I think this decision will have to be taken by the Commerce and Finance Ministry but your recommendation in this regard will be deemed a historic step akin to USEPA ban on asbestos, Ban Asbestos in America Act of 2007 passed by the US Senate by Unanimous Consent and the adoption by European Union on July 26, 1999 of a written procedure which signalled the end to asbestos use throughout all Member States of the European Union.

From January 1, 2005, the introduction of new applications of asbestos cement materials, friction products, seals and gaskets were prohibited. The human biology in India is the same as Europeans and others. Consequently, steps for phasing out asbestos products ought to be announced sooner rather than later.

To begin with you can issue a Notice in English, Hindi and other regional languages in the newspapers and magazines seeking suggestions to deal with asbestos hazards. The notice can seek information from experts and public at large about:

1) An inventory of asbestos products,
2) List of asbestos laden public buildings
3) Suggestions for decontamination of asbestos laden buildings
4) Legal and medical measures to respond to exposures from asbestos
5) List of asbestos victims
6) List of localities which are in the proximity of asbestos plants
7) How to deal with used, end of life and decayed asbestos products
8) List of workers who work in an environment laden with asbestos fibers

This will create massive awareness and help decision makers fathom the enormity of the unacknowledged environmental health crisis facing us and the coming generations.

In view of the adverse effects of asbestos mining on the health of the workers that the Central government directed the state governments in 1986 not to grant any new mining lease for asbestos (including chrysotile variety) in the country. In June 1993, the central government stopped the renewal of existing mining leases of asbestos. Union Ministry of steel, mines and coal had issued directives for a ban on renewal or granting of new leases for mining asbestos.

The ban was imposed in phases in 1986 and 1993 but not on its use, manufacture, export and import. There is ban on trade in asbestos waste as well as per Hazardous Wastes Rules.

Clearly, so far only half step has been taken by our government, it is high time steps are initiated to take one full step if for no other reason at least for the sake of intergenerational equity.

I will be happy to share more details.

regards
Gopal Krishna
Convener
Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)
Asbestos Mukti Andolan
New Delhi
Mb: 09818089660, 07739308480

Countries that have Banned Asbestos

Current Asbestos Bans and Restrictions

National Asbestos Bans:1

Algeria

Czech Republic*

Iceland

Malta*

Saudi Arabia

Argentina

Denmark

Ireland

Mongolia5

Seychelles

Australia

Egypt

Israel3

Mozambique

Slovakia*

Austria

Estonia*

Italy

Netherlands

Slovenia

Bahrain

Finland

Japan

New Caledonia

South Africa

Belgium

France

Jordan4

Norway

Spain

Brunei

Gabon

Korea (South)

Oman

Sweden

Bulgaria

Germany

Kuwait

Poland

Switzerland

Chile

Greece*

Latvia

Portugal*

Turkey

Croatia2

Honduras

Lithuania*

Qatar

United Kingdom

Cyprus*

Hungary*

Luxembourg

Romania

Uruguay

Note. Singapore and Taiwan have been removed from the ban list (Oct 2010). Although no further use of asbestos is anticipated in these two countries we have no hard evidence that comprehensive formal bans exist in either Singapore or Taiwan.

_______

1 Exemptions for minor uses are permitted in some countries listed; however, all countries listed must have banned the use of all types of asbestos. Additionally, we seek to ensure that all general use of asbestos, i.e. in construction, insulation, textiles, etc., has been expressly prohibited. The exemptions usually encountered are for specialist seals and gaskets; in a few countries there is an interim period where asbestos brake pads are permitted.

2 Croatia banned asbestos as of January 1, 2006. Six weeks later, the Ministry of Economy, under political and commercial pressure, forced the Ministry of Health to reverse its position with the result that the manufacture of asbestos-containing products for export was permitted again.

3 As the result of a series of restrictions on the use of asbestos introduced from the 1980s onwards, a de facto ban on asbestos exists in Israel.

4 An immediate ban on amosite and crocidolite was imposed on August 16, 2005; a grace period of one year was allowed for the phasing out of the use of tremolite, chrysotile, anthophyllite and actinolite in friction products, brake linings and clutch pads. After August 16, 2006, all forms of asbestos were to be banned for all uses.

5 Although an order banning the import of all types of asbestos including chrysotile was adopted in July 2010, the enforcement of this legislation is not without problems.

* January 1, 2005 was the deadline for prohibiting the new use of chrysotile, other forms of asbestos having been banned previously, in all 25 Member States of the European Union; compliance with this directive has not been verified in countries with an asterisk (*). As of May 2009 there are 27 Member States, with Romania and Bulgaria joining the EU in 2007.

Source:ibasecretariat.org

Jairam Ramesh Seeks Report on Proposed Bihar Asbestos Plant

Govt move to soothe tempers-Union minister orders report on asbestos unit

Patna, Jan. 13: The fate of the asbestos factory to be set up by Calcutta-based Balmukund Cement and Roofing Limited (BCRL) at Bishnupur-Chainpur in Muzaffarpur is hanging in the balance.

Union minister of environment and forest Jairam Ramesh said his department would look into the matter before the project proceeds any further.

Ramesh told The Telegraph: “I have asked the officials of my department to look into the matter and submit a report within a week.”

The issue came to the fore after residents of Bishnupur-Chainpur village protested against the setting up of the factory because of possible environmental hazards. An impasse between the village residents and the company management has been on since last month.

Environmentalists and experts on asbestos from many parts of the world have petitioned chief minister Nitish Kumar urging him to stop the factory from being set up. The issue caught national attention after noted environmental consultant and asbestos hazard expert Barry Castleman wrote letters to Nitish and Ramesh drawing their attention over the issue.

The movement to shelve the asbestos factory has been spearheaded by SUCI and Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) since July last year.

The residents of the area have protested against the district administration for setting up the plant. Police lathi charged the activists who had gathered at the demonstration in front of the district headquarters in Muzaffarpur. Two leaders of the movement Tarkeshwar Giri and Kumud Ram were also arrested.

Medha Patkar, social worker and convener of National Alliance for People’s Movement, wrote a letter to Nitish demanding that Giri and Ram be released unconditionally.

Patkar, in her letter, said under National Rehabilitation Policy of 2007, it is the responsibility of the state government to ensure that farmlands are distributed properly.

The state industry department principal secretary, C.K. Mishra, said: “We have asked the district administration to hold talks with the two parties — the non-governmental organisation and the management of the company to find a solution.” Mishra added that BCRL had started setting up the factory only after getting clearance from the pollution control board.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Concerned Secretaries, Ministers & Bihar MPs Informed About Anti-asbestos Struggle

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) guidance manual on Asbestos Based Industries was prepared in consultation with
V Pattabhi, former Executive Committee Member, Asbestos International Association and
Former BIS Sectional Committee Member and Dr. S.P. Vivek Chandra Rao, Vice President - Occupational Health, Hyderabad Industries Limited is highly questionable since no inputs were taken from trade union, civil society group working on environmental and occupational health.

Even the guidelines of this manual has been violated because essential Maps to be provided are misleading so is the case with land use map.

As per this manual key element that is to monitor and draw mitigation plan is asbestos in the air environment. Breathing of asbestos of dimensions of biological importance has possibility of creating
occupational disease when the exposure level exceeds the permissible standards. It does not mention diseases caused to communities due to environmental exposure. Impact during construction and operational stages of asbestos plant is a matter of huge concern. Adverse impact during transportation of asbestos material, storage of raw material, transfer of raw
material and manufacturing process cannot be mitigated. Adverse impact due to fugitive asbestos emissions in the work area and in the ambient area, impact due to cutting of asbestos sheets, impact due to grinding of asbestos solid waste in to powder for reuse and impact due to point source of emissions on the ambient environment cannot be addressed. It is mentioned in the manual that vehicles used for transport of asbestos waste should be cleaned thoroughly by means of vacuum cleaner or other dustless methods, before it is used for other purposes. The atmosphere around it cannot become safer by any method.

According to the manual the occupational health surveillance program is to address pre employment health examination and periodic health examination. Every employee on his appointment for a job with a possibility of exposure to airborne asbestos shall get the pre-employment medical examination done within stipulated days of his employment, by the employer. Scheme for health surveillance shall include exposure data at each pertinent work place, periodical examination of workers, X-ray examination for radiological changes, lung function test for restrictive disorder and clinical examination for early detection of signs of asbestosis. These tests are to be recorded for pre-employment, periodic surveillance and at cessation of employment as per the concerned state government regulations.

Occupational health surveillance is to be carried out by occupational physician or chest physician
trained in occupational medicine. The occupational health surveillance program is to be drawn
for all the employees potentially exposed to asbestos dust and it is to be provided free of cost.
The medical records are to be maintained and stored for period of 15 years following the
termination of employment or for 40 years after first day of employment, whichever is later. The medical records is to be maintained covering the details of pre-employment examination, the periodical medical examinations, medical examination done at other times, if any and the medical examinations conducted at cessation of employment and further follow-up examinations, where done. The records shall also be maintained of the individual employee's occupational exposure profile to asbestos, specific work practices, and preventive measures prescribed, if any. The occupational health surveillance program is to address the following aspects
Pre-employment medical examination
Periodic medical examination
Medical examination at cessation of employment
Maintenance of medical records and
Health education

The manual makes a claim in its risk analysis that "Although asbestos industry will not cause any disastrous emergencies, control measures due to accidental discharge, spillages of asbestos during transportation, storage and manufacturing process is to be assessed." Such contentions are clearly asbestos driven else how was public health and enviro-occupational disaster caused due to asbestos exposure ignored.

Public consultation should have happened as per the procedure laid down in EIA Notification 2006. The issues raised by the public and response of the project proponent should have been furnished in a tabular form. This was required but has not been done.

Clearly, Expert Appraisal Committee has erred in not factoring in the environmental cost benefit analysis of the Balmukund asbestos company's project. Had they done so environmental clearance for the project could not have been given. In such circumstances, villagers have decided to stop the killer asbestos plant for good.

Economic Impact of Banning Use of Asbestos in Brazil

“The Economic Impact of the Banning of the Use of Asbestos in Brazil,” by Ana Lucia Gonçalves da Silva and Carlos Raul Eulaini,” Jornal da Unicamp,[1] November 29-December 12, 2010, No. 483; the Jornal is now in its 14th year of publication.

Asbestos is considered to be a carcinogenic substance by the World Health Organization (WHO) which recommends the substitution of this mineral fiber by alternative materials.

Resolution 162 (of which Brazil is a signatory) approved in 1986 by the International Labour Organization (ILO), made the same recommendation, in addition to prescribing measures for the prevention and control of health risks. In 2006 the ILO moved forward in this area with a new resolution advocating the elimination of all forms of asbestos. At present, 58 countries prohibit the utilization of this mineral fiber. Despite the recognized disease-causing potential of all kinds of asbestos, and the fact that there is no safe limit of exposure, the type of asbestos known as chrysotile is still utilized in Brazil and in other countries, mostly in the manufacture of fiber-cement products, such as roof tiles and panels and water tanks.

In 2004, the federal government in Brazil created an inter-ministerial commission to re-examine the use of chrysotile, in the wake of the decision by the European Community (Directive 1999/77/EC), to ban--- as of January 1, 2005--- the use of asbestos is in all countries which had not yet adopted this measure. Although no new policy was put forward by the inter-ministerial commission---which made possible the interpretation that the use of chrysotile asbestos is still allowed---a number of Brazilian states and counties have passed legislation which implements the recommendations of the International Labour Organization to ban all types of asbestos. The state-level initiatives have been challenged by the Brazilian Chrysotile Institute (IBC) or by the government of Goiás (the only chrysotile mine in Brazil, is located in Miniçu County in the State of Goiás. The mine itself is owned by the Sama company, a property of the Eternit Group). At present, for example, the Federal Supreme Court is in the process of issuing a ruling upon the constitutionality of a law passed by the State of São Paulo which bans the use of asbestos in that state.

The defenders of the continued use of asbestos base their position on the following economic arguments:

a) The prices of non-asbestos fiber-cement roof tiles and panels are supposedly higher than those of fiber-cement tiles which contain asbestos. According to IBC, products which utilize artificial fibers are 30% to 40% more expensive, and the banning of asbestos-cement tile would increase this difference in prices.

b) Banning of asbestos use would be likely to put pressure on Brazil’s international balance of payments because it would require the importation of synthetic fibers. According to the IBC, the damage might total US$180 million/year, a figure which we believe to be clearly exaggerated, since Brazil already supplies 31% of its internal demand for asbestos from imports, which cost only US$14 million/year.

c) It is argued that there would be a negative effect on jobs and income throughout the entire range of asbestos-containing products. Asbestos advocates stress that a total of 170,000 jobs have been created in the mining, manufacture, transport, distribution, and resale of asbestos products, and that an asbestos ban would would have a very serious effect on this entire line of products. However if we take into account both the direct and indirect jobs, this estimate is inconsistent with known facts. By law, companies which handle asbestos—whether in production, transport, or purveying of services—are required to register with the Ministry of Work and Employment (MTE) and, according to February 2005 figures in this registry, these companies employed 16,863 workers, of which 3,893 were in the fiber-cement sector and 453 in the mining sector.

d) When the question of the loss of tax revenues is examined, the Sama company pays 53 million reals (US$31 million) per year in federal, state, and county taxes and 9 million reals (US$6 million) in valued-added taxes (ICMS). IBC goes on to point out that Miniçu County, the State of Goiás, and the Federal government receive 3.3 million reals/year (US$2.0 million) in royalties through a mining tax on mineral extraction (CFEM).

e) And finally, there would be a very strong negative effect on Minaçu County in Goiás because of the local importance of asbestos mining.

In our research we found, however that the supposed higher prices of non-asbestos products have not been confirmed. The research we have seen shows that the prices of fiber-cement products with and without asbestos are practically the same, especially since the IBC assumes, mistakenly, that the proposed change to asbestos-free fiber-cement products would be immediate and total, which we believe is unlikely. Defenders of asbestos products have made other incorrect assumptions as well: i) that Brazil lacks high-quality non-asbestos products and technology; ii) that businesses will be unable to supply the increased demand resulting from the race to convert to alternative products; iii) that the termination of the production of asbestos fiber will impede productive activity at all levels of the use of fiber-cement products; iv) and finally, that raising the demand for alternative fibers will not be sufficient to stimulate investments in Brazil to meet that demand, which will have to be met through imports.

The research results we have developed at Unicamp have made it possible for us to come to opposite conclusions and to refute these incorrect hypotheses. The real facts are as follows:

1) Brazil can already count on a supply of alternative fibers to asbestos, since the supply of alternatives has already reached an advanced stage and can certainly be completed in a very short time;

2) Even with a ban in the production of asbestos fibers, there will be no downstream supply problems in the fiber-cement industry. The negative economic effects will be felt only in the sphere of asbestos extraction (which in 2007 employed 156 workers in mining and 210 in primary processing). The problems here can be dealt with through policies of support to the affected region (tourism, for example, can become a promising alternative for Miniçu). The jobs in the manufacture of fiber-cement products and their transport and sale will still exist whether or not the raw material is asbestos or a synthetic fiber. The negative employment effects in the mining sector can be reversed through investments in alternative technologies in the fiber-cement industry through the use of synthetic fibers or other alternative materials. So it is likely that new businesses will develop, including those which specialize in asbestos removal.

3) Furthermore, we do not expect serious changes in the prices of alternative products. During a short transition period, these products may cost up to of 10% more, which will be alleviated by the fact that special safety procedures will not be necessary during the installation, maintenance, and remodeling with non- asbestos fiber-cement products. Banning asbestos will eliminate the constant risk to workers and occupants of building projects, and the special costs of demolition, removal, and disposal of asbestos waste will be avoided. At this point we should recall that the recently-approved National Policy on Solid Wastes prescribes measures to oblige companies which employ environmentally hazardous technologies to assume responsibility for dealing with these hazards. Furthermore, we must take into account that in addition an increase in the supply of non-asbestos fiber-cement roof tiles and panels, there are other types of tiles, especially ceramic tiles, where there is a very strong price competition. For those reasons there will be no shortage of roof tiles and other fiber-cement products, nor do we anticipate an increase in the cost of construction triggered by an asbestos ban. It is well known that upward price pressures are common during periods of prosperity in the construction industry, which are unrelated to an asbestos ban. Thus, for example, the price per ton of asbestos fiber produced by Sama rose 20% between the first and second semester of 2008, according to the National Department of Mineral Production (DNPM).

During the 20th century, the asbestos industry, in collaboration with some leaders of the field of occupational medicine, sought to discount evidence against the use of asbestos. With the asbestos ban in an increasing number of developed countries, the producers of chrysotile turned their attention to the developing countries, in an effort, once again, to repeat traditional strategies for the legitimization of the use of asbestos. The most striking example is that of Canada, which prohibits the use of asbestos internally, but is still the greatest exporter of the product, mostly to poor countries in Africa and Asia.

It is in this context that the debate over the ban on asbestos in Brazil continues. The lead asbestos-producing group in our country is working toward a strategy of encouraging the use of its product in developing countries. Instead of giving up asbestos as a raw material and betting on substitute materials, the Eternit group has opted to ignore the health and environmental effects of asbestos use, and to participate in the movement in defense of its “controlled use.” At the same time, with the contraction of asbestos use in the internal market, Eternit has been expanding its sales to countries which have not yet banned the product. As the company with a monopoly on the production of asbestos in Brazil, Eternit has continued to manufacture fiber-cement products which use asbestos, So while maintaining its position as the principle local consumer of asbestos, it has at the same time begun a prepare itself to participate in the market of asbestos-free fiber-cement products.

Despite the lack of federal action, in the last decade Brazil has made serious progress in building its capacity for substitution of asbestos with alternative fibers, with safe options which take into account technical specifications as well as the protection of human health and the environment. The adaptation of these production techniques is simple and can be carried out in a short period of time. A significant part of the fiber-cement industry in Brazil is already up-to-speed with these technologies and has the capital necessary for a changeover.

Effective control of the risks created by asbestos will require a complete ban on the mining, transport, manufacture, sale, and utilization of asbestos, in all its forms, throughout Brazil. There will of course be people who defend the continuation of exportation, using the argument that our country continues to earn precious foreign exchange (exports of asbestos by Sama total US50 million per year). But it is absolutely essential to note that Brazil exports asbestos to poorer countries in the so-called periphery, thus putting millions of people at risk for their lives. Ignorance about the malignantly fatal effects of working with asbestos exacts a human price, but this price will not be paid by those who earn big money from this profitable and macabre commerce.

[1] “Unicamp” is the comon abbreviation for the State University of Campinas (Universidade Estadual de Campinas) , in Campinas, São Paulo State, Brazil. Ana Lucia Gonçalves da Silva is a Professor at the Institute of Economics (IE) and Carlos Raul Eulaini is a Professor at the Faculty of Applied Science (FCA) which are both affiliated with Unicamp.

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