Hon’ble Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA)
Government of India
Through Shri Rajiv Gauba, Cabinet Secretary, Government of India
Subject: Why India must support inclusion of Chrysotile asbestos in the UN’s list of Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade
With reference to the upcoming eleventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure (PIC) for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade (RC COP-11) to be held in Geneva from 1-12 May 2023, we submit that there is a logical compulsion for India to support listing of chrysotile asbestos in the PIC list (Annex III) of hazardous chemicals because our Occupational Safety Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020 recognises hazardous nature of all kinds of asbestos including the chrysotile asbestos and the diseases caused by it. We ratified the Rotterdam Convention on May 24, 2005.
We submit that our minister of health and chemicals has informed the Parliament on April 5, 2022 that “Directorate General Factory Advice Service & Labour Institutes (DGFASLI) under the Ministry of Labour and Employment, carried out a ‘National Study on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Environment in Asbestos Cement Product Industries’ from November, 2018 to February, 2019 covering 50 functional asbestos cement product industries of the country. Out of 2603 workers, 10 cases were found to be suspected cases of asbestos related disorders.” This reply echoes the recommendations of the UN’s Chemical Review Committee of the Rotterdam Convention on chrysotile asbestos.
We submit that the Chemical Review Committee of the Rotterdam Convention decided to recommend to the COP-7 in 2015 that it consider the listing of hazardous chrysotile asbestos in Annex III to the Convention. The discussion on it was deferred from the previous meeting of the Conference of the Parties. The issue of chrysotile asbestos has been on the agenda since COP-3 of the Rotterdam Convention.
We submit that the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos under the Rotterdam Convention does not lead to its ban. However, importing countries need to follow the PIC procedure. The listing of hazardous chemicals does not lead to any increase in the trade cost or delay the import/export process. The PIC procedure is the 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.
We submit that our minister of health and chemicals has inadvertently been put in a conflict-of-interest ridden situation because of his dual role as a head of a ministry that promotes hazardous substance like chrysotile asbestos and head of a ministry that has to regulate the adverse health impact of toxic chrysotile asbestos fibers.
In view of the above and in order to safeguard our country’s stature, CCEA ought to remedy this ugly situation before the commencement of the COP-11 in Geneva and direct the Indian delegation to support inclusion of chrysotile asbestos in the UN’s PIC list in supreme national interest.
Thanking you in anticipation
Gopal Krishna, LL.M., Ph.D