Both Giddha, Koilwar asbestos factory & Bihiya based asbestos factory endanger public health
July 25, 2017: Following anti-asbestos movement campaign and taking note of the violation of environmental laws by asbestos factories in Bhojpur, Bihar, Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB) has cancelled the No Objection Certificate given to the asbestos factory units of Tamil Nadu based Nibhi Industries Pvt Ltd and Ramco Industries, Bhojpur, Bihar. Despite such action these factories are operating with impunity. In a significant development the company in question has filed a case against BSPCB, Bihar Industrial Area Development Authority (BIADA) and State of Bihar in the Patna High Court. The matter was last heard on July 17, 2017 before Justice Shivji Pandey. BSPCB has filed its counter affidavit pursuant to Court’s order5 dated March 23, 2017. The last Court action in this case happened on July 21, 2017. The date of hearing is on August 7. The orders of July 17 and July 21 are yet to be uploaded on Court’s website. It is intriguing as to why BIADA has been made a party in the case.
Notably, BSPCB has revoked its emission-consent order and discharge consent order given to Tamil Nadu based Nibhi Industries Pvt Ltd which was valid till 31st March, 2018. Chairman, BSPCB has ordered, the company in question, Nibhi Industries Pvt Ltd. to “close your industrial unit with immediate effect, failing which complaints shall be filed u/ss. 44 of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and 37 of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.” This land allotment was considered to be part of the scam that led to an inquiry into allotments by Bihar Industrial Area Development Authority (BIADA). In Bhojpur's Giddha village in Koilwar block, the 100,000 MT Capacity Asbestos Fibre Cement Corrugated Sheet, Flat Sheet, Accessories and Light Weight Fly Ash Block Plant acquired 15 acres. The plant site is located adjacent to Ara-Koilwar road.
The villagers have been complaining against the hazardous factories in their proximity that manufacture chrysotile white asbestos-cement products. The hazardous asbestos waste has been dumped indiscriminately in the adjoining villages and the agricultural fields.
This company misled the villagers by telling them that agro-based factories will be set up. Initially, when they bought the land they did not disclose that it was for asbestos based factories. When students of 10th and 12th standard found that it was going to be hazardous factory, they pointed out that as per their biology and chemistry text books asbestos causes incurable lung diseases.
Given the fact that No Objection Certificate given by BSPCB of all the asbestos based factories in Bihar been cancelled by BSPCB, there is no legal basis for the continued operations of this hazardous factory.
It may also be noted that BSPCB has cancelled the No Objection Certificate given to the asbestos factory units of Tamil Nadu based Ramco Industries in Bihiya, Bhojpur as well.
When it was repeatedly pointed out the violations of the general and specific conditions given the environmental clearance and NOC by Ramco Industries, BSPCB’s Chairman took its cognizance. He has issued an order saying, “I therefore, have no option but to treat this unit as a non-compliant industry and am not inclined to renew the Emission-Consent-Order and Discharge-Consent-Order for further period beyond 31.3.2016. The applications for Emission-Consent-Order and Discharge-Consent-Order dated 12.2.2016 are, accordingly, refused.”
A 120,000 MT/Annum capacity Asbestos Cement Sheet Plant and a 200,000 MT/Annum capacity Asbestos Grinding Plant was set up in Bihiya block of Bhojpur by by Tamil Nadu based Ramco Industries Ltd. It is noteworthy that only 120,000 MT/Annum capacity Asbestos Cement Sheet Plant had the clearance from the BSPCB. The second unit of bigger capacity functions without any clearance. The project was allotted 20 acres by the state government on lease for 90 years. Although the company had approval for only one factory, it has been running two units. It was given approval for only the 120,000 MT/Annum capacity Asbestos Cement Sheet Plant and not it’s 200,000 MT/Annum capacity Asbestos Grinding Plant.
The villagers complained against the hazardous factories in their proximity that manufacture chrysotile white asbestos-cement products. The hazardous asbestos waste has been dumped indiscriminately in the adjoining villages and the agricultural fields. When one worker died of asbestos related disease in the Ramco factory, her daughter has filed a case in the human rights commission. The company has given a compensation of Rs 5, 000 in matter of a death of this dead person (mritak ki maut) avoiding to mention his status as a worker and arguing that he was a cook in the factory and not a worker. This case is sub judice with Bihar Human Rights Commission. Workers of this factory have been on strike on several occasions but they have been silenced with the help of unscrupulous local leaders and officials of easy virtue.
Notably, questions were raised against these plants in Bihar Vidhan Sabha and Vidhan Parishad. Shri Abdul Bari Siddiqui, the then leader of opposition (and current Bihar Finance Minister) raised the issue of hazardous asbestos factories in Vidhan Sabha. In another significant observation Shri Awadhesh Narain Singh as Chairperson, Bihar Legislative Council (BLC) and former labour minister said, “buying asbestos is akin to buying cancer” and “pain of asbestos related diseases is worse than the pain of unemployment.” The speech of Chairman, BLC is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9TbemRUkYM
In India, asbestos mining is technically banned and trade in asbestos waste (dust and fibers) is also banned. Union Environment Ministry’s Vision Statement on Environment and Human Health reads, "Alternatives to asbestos may be used to the extent possible and use of asbestos may be phased out" but the Experts Appraisal Committee of this very ministry continues to give environmental clearance to such hazardous industries. This is notwithstanding the fact that "The Government of India is considering the ban on use of chrysotile asbestos in India to protect workers and the general population against primary and secondary exposure," as announced in a concept paper by the Ministry of Labour. Both these documents are available on central government’s website but struggle to make Indians safe from deadly exposure of asbestos fibers continues in the face of misinformation campaign of the killer industry.
As per Hon'ble Supreme Court's judgment of January 27, 1995 in Writ Petition (Civil) No.206 of 1986 which was reiterated on January 21, 2011, the State govt has to comply with fresh ILO, resolution of June, 2006 on ASBESTOS and the health records of workers have to be maintained for 40 years and for 15 years after the retirement. The Judgment also stipulates compensation for such workers who suffer from asbestos related diseases. In violation of Hon'ble Supreme Court's orders, the Bihiya factory of Ramco company has not been maintaining the health record of every worker, not conducting Membrane Filter test to detect asbestos fibre, nor insuring health coverage to every worker and that the company does not have qualified occupational health doctors to undertake these tasks. This is true about the factory of Nibhi company in Koilwar as well.
There is a compelling reason to ensure that both these companies in question are tasked to decontaminate asbestos laden factory sites, building, prepare a register of victims of asbestos related diseases and announce a compensation fund for victims of fatal diseases remains to be undertaken. This is required to save present and future generation from incurable asbestos related diseases. So far High Court the Nibhi asbestos factory case has been listed on nine occasions since the filing of the case on September 1, 2016.
For Details: Dr Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 08227816731, 09818089660
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P.S.: It may be recalled that after more than five years of villagers' struggle against lung cancer causing asbestos based plant of West Bengal based Balmukund company in Chainpur-Bishunpur, Marwan block in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar was closed. It had approval for 3 lakh ton per annum capacity. Bitter resistance against the proposal of West Bengal based Utkal Asbestos Limited (UAL) at Chaksultan Ramppur Rajdhari near Panapur in Kanhauli Dhanraj Panchayat of in Goraul block in Vaishali made the Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar intervene after a delegation of leaders from Left parties and anti-asbestos activists met him in this regard. I worked with Khet Bachao Jeevan Bachao Jan Sangarsh Committee of Muzaffarpur and Vaishali to resist the setting up such hazardous plants and represented it in negotiations. Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB) cancelled the No Objection Certificate given to the UAL company. It had approval for 2.5 lakh ton per annum capacity. This company also operated Giddha, Bhojpur based asbestos factory for some time as well.
After he was presented a memorandum signed by 10, 000 villagers, BSPCB’s Chairman stood his ground against the factory because it had violated the Battery Limit fixed for such hazardous industries. Company representatives compared harmful effects of asbestos exposure to harm from drinking too much alcohol and road accident. This was emphatically rejected by the villagers as quite insensitive.
The peoples struggle led to stoppage of proposed asbestos based plant of 1.25 lak tons per annum (TPA) capacity in Pandaul, Sagarpur, Hati tehsil in Madhubani. The proposal of 2.5 lakh TPA capacity plant by Hyderabad Industries Ltd in Kumar Bagh, Bettiah, West Champaran has also been stopped. The company has constructed a boundary wall amidst rich agricultural field but faces court cases from villagers.
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