Make India Asbestos Free

Make India Asbestos Free
For Asbestos Free India

Journal of Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI). Asbestos Free India campaign of BANI is inspired by trade union movement and right to health campaign. BANI has been working since 2000. It works with peoples movements, doctors, researchers and activists besides trade unions, human rights, environmental, consumer and public health groups. BANI demands criminal liability for companies and medico-legal remedy for victims.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Save Rotterdam Convention on Hazardous Chemicals

Environmental, labour & health groups call for action to save Rotterdam Convention

UN Environmental treaty is being killed by political & asbestos industry interference, say groups

New Delhi/Geneva: The Fourth meeting of the Chemical Review Committee of UN treaty called Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure (PIC) for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade is underway. It is scheduled from 10 to 13 March 2008, in Geneva.

Year 2008 is the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Rotterdam Convention, whose purpose is to protect human health and the environment by controlling international trade in hazardous chemicals and pesticides. But instead of celebrating, a number of environmental, labour and health groups are sounding the alarm.

The proposed inclusion of chrysotile asbestos in the PIC procedure in the upcoming 4th Conference of Parties (October 2008) of the Rotterdam Convention and would also be presented at the Chemical Review Committee (CRC) of the Convention. There are 39 chemicals listed in Annex III of the Convention and subject to the PIC procedure, including 24 pesticides, 4 severely hazardous pesticide formulations and 11 industrial chemicals.

At its last meeting in 2006, over one hundred countries approved the recommendation made by the Committee of experts that chrysotile asbestos be listed for Prior Informed Consent. But Canada, together with Kyrgyzstan, India, Iran, Peru and Ukraine, simply refused to let the Convention's process work. They were supported by Zimbabwe, Russia and Indonesia, who have not ratified the Convention.

"At the March 10-13 meeting of the Convention's Chemical Review Committee, taking place in Geneva right now, sixteen representatives from the chemical industry and, in particular, lobbyists for the asbestos industry will be attending as official observers," noted Laurie Allen Kazan of International Ban Asbestos Secretariat. "This is extremely disturbing."

Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) finds it alarming to note that no representative from environmental, health or labour groups are present at the meting. We are calling for a stop to industry interference in a Convention meant to protect health and the environment, say the groups. We are, in particular, challenging Canada, Kyrgyzstan, India, Kazakhstan, Iran, Peru and Ukraine, as well as Russia, Zimbabwe and Indonesia (who have not signed the Convention) to stop their irresponsible, destructive conduct.

"The Indian government has included a representative of the asbestos industry in its delegation," said Madhumitta Dutta of Corporate Accountability Desk-The Other Media. "And a study on asbestos presently being carried out by the Indian government was, in fact, funded by the asbestos industry." This study- an exercise in sophistry-has been done to satisfy the Chemical Review Committee and to take a pro-asbestos Indian position at the 4th Conference of Parties (October 2008) of the Convention.

Mandate of Chemical Review Committee is to "make every effort to make its recommendations by consensus. If all efforts at consensus have been exhausted, and no consensus reached, such recommendation shall as a last resort be adopted by a two-thirds majority vote of the members present and voting." Jasbir Singh, Industrial Adviser, Union Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers is the expert, named by Union Ministry of Chemicals, Government of India, to be a member of the Chemical Review. "Chemical Review Committee" is the subsidiary body of the Rotterdam Convention. There is documentary proof to suggest that Ministry of Chemicals has an incestuous relationship with the asbestos industry. An objection letter highlighting the same has been sent to the Ministry in question.

The World Health Organization and the International Labour Organizations, among others, have called for chrysotile asbestos to be banned and most industrialized countries have banned it. Asbestos companies are therefore aggressively targeting developing countries and the countries of Eastern Europe for expanded sales.

"If chrysotile asbestos, a known deadly carcinogen, which fully met all the requirements of the Convention can be prevented from being listed, then the Convention is in grave peril," said Gopal Krishna of Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI).

"Industry interference is killing the Convention," said Dutta. "Countries allied to the asbestos industry are putting the profits of the industry ahead of the lives of people." Industry interference and political sabotage by a handful of countries, led by Canada, are strangling the Rotterdam Convention; say the groups from Asia, Africa, South and North America, and Europe. Because of this interference, no action has been possible under the Convention for the past four years and the groups are concerned that progress at meetings planned for this year will likewise be blocked.

The Convention creates legally binding obligations for the implementation of the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure. A Conference of Plenipotentiaries in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, adopted the text of the Convention in 1998. The Convention, which has been ratified by 110 countries, came into effect in February 2004.

One of the fundamental principles in the operation of the Rotterdam Convention is that a country when it has adopted a final regulatory action to ban or severely restrict a chemical notifies the secretariat of that action. Under the Convention, a Committee of experts recommends whether a hazardous product has met the criteria of the Convention and should be placed on a special list, which requires exporting countries to obtain Prior Informed Consent. This makes the UN treaty very significant to protect human health and environment from lethal chemical hazards.

Our message is – Let the Convention live.

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