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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

Monday, May 4, 2015

Indian Environment Minister takes note of reasons for India disassociating itself from Russia & other white chrysotile asbestos producers at UN Meet in Geneva

Seventh Conference of Parties (CoP 7) of UN's Rotterdam Convention commences in Geneva from May 4

May 4, 2015: In a remarkable move India's Minister of Environment Forests & Climate Change ( MoEFCC), Prakash Javadekar has communicated on May 4 that he has "noted", the contents of the letter addressed to him in the context of Seventh Conference of Parties (CoP 7) of UN's Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade  ahead of the commencement of CoP 7 in Geneva.In the letter it has been argued as to why India must disassociate itself from Russia & other white chrysotile asbestos producers at CoP 7 in Geneva. The letter from ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) dated May 3, 2015 is attached and pasted below. CoP is underway in Switzerland from 4th May to 15th May 2015. 

The minister has communicated the same to Shri Shashi Shekhar, Special Secretary, Chairman, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Union Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change who responsible for Hazardous Substances Management Division and international negotiations in the ministry. The minister's response within hours of having received the letter underlines the seriousness with which he is involved in the matter.     

The text of the Rotterdam Convention was adopted by the Conference of the Plenipotentiaries (Rotterdam, 10 September 1998). The text was subsequently amended by the First Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (Geneva, 20 - 24 September 2004), the Fourth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (Rome, 27 – 31 October 2008), the Fifth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (Geneva, 20 - 24 June 2011) and the Sixth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (Geneva, 28 April – 10 May 2013).  There are 72 Signatories and 154 Parties to the Convention. India gave its consent for Accession to the Convention on 24th May, 2005.  

To achieve its objectives the Convention includes two key provisions, namely the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure and Information Exchange. The PIC procedure is a mechanism for formally obtaining and disseminating the decisions of importing Parties as to whether they wish to receive future shipments of those chemicals listed in Annex III of the Convention and for ensuring compliance with these decisions by exporting Parties. The Convention facilitates information exchange among Parties for a very broad range of potentially hazardous chemicals. The Convention requires each Party to notify the Secretariat when taking a domestic regulatory action to ban or severely restrict a chemical.

The Conference of the Parties oversees the operation of the Convention and makes decisions regarding amendments to the Convention, including the addition of chemicals to Annex III.  

The purpose of the Convention is to promote responsible trade. Indian delegation should be advised to:
•       to support responsible trade
•        to support the recommendation of the Convention's scientific committee (the Chemical Review Committee) to list chrysotile asbestos
•       to support the purpose of the Convention, which is to provide the right to Prior Informed Consent, based on the recommendations of the Convention's scientific committee

The Chemical Review Committee is a subsidiary body of the COP. Its members are government designated experts in chemicals management. Its responsibilities include reviewing notifications and proposals from Parties, and making recommendations to the COP on the addition of chemicals to Annex III.

The Convention is based on a process under which the Chemical Review Committee examines the evidence before recommending whether a substance should be put on the Convention's list of hazardous substances. Some countries like Russia who are promoting transfer of harm to countries like ours due to their incestuous relationship with the asbestos industry are rejecting the scientific process and refusing to act as per the recommendation of the scientific committee in the matter of white chrysotile asbestos.

Taking cognisance of Hon'ble Supreme Court’s judgment dated 27th January, 1995, the Ministry of Environment of Forests came out with its 19 page long Vision Statement on Environment and Human Health (Para 4.3.1) wherein it is stated: “Alternatives to asbestos may be used to the extent possible and use of asbestos may be phased out” on page no. 12 This is available on its website. Source:
moef.nic.in/divisions/cpoll/envhealth/visenvhealth.pdf.
In a concept paper Union Ministry of Labour disclosed at the two-day 5th India-EU Joint Seminar on “Occupational Safety and Health” on 19-20th September, 2011 that "The Government of India is
considering the ban on use of chrysotile asbestos in India to protect the workers and the general population against primary and secondary exposure to Chrysotile form of Asbestos." It has noted that "Asbestosis is yet another occupational disease of the Lungs which is on an increase under similar circumstances warranting concerted efforts of all stake holders to evolve strategies to curb this menace". The document is readily available at http://www.labour.nic.in/lc/Background%20note.pdf)

In a notice dated December 24, 2014, Hon’ble National Human Rights Commission has asked the Ministry of Labour regarding steps taken in pursuance of its concept paper.

Notably, US Environment Protection Agency says, “No safe exposure threshold (with respect to for inhaling asbestos fibers) has been established, but the risk of disease generally increases with
the length and amount of exposure.”
Source :http://yosemite.epa.gov/R10/OWCM.NSF/0/1892d33bca669504882566d700671e50?OpenDocument
The same is reiterated by World Health Organization (WHO) at
http://whqlibdoc.who.int/hq/2006/WHO_SDE_OEH_06.03_eng.pdf

It is noteworthy that in a recent inter-ministerial meeting held last month, MoEFCC took a position which was quite sensitive to enviro-occupational health in the matter of hazardous ship breaking industry. The migrant workers in this industry are admittedly exposed to hazardous and carcinogenic substances like asbestos fibers. In the light of these reasons, there is a compelling logic for MoEFCC to disassociate itself from Russia.
 
For Details: Gopal Krishna, Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)- ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 08227816731, 09818089660
E-mail-1715krishna@gmail.comBlog:banasbestosindia.blogspot.in
Web: www.toxicswatch.org, Website of Rotterdam Convention Secretariat:  http://www.pic.int/ 

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