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, November 4, 2009

Unpardonable Pro-Asbestos Act of Ministry of MInes


Shri Bijoy Krishna Handique
Union Ministry of Mines
3rd Floor, A wing,
Shastri Bhawan,
New Delhi


This is to draw your attention towards your Ministry's Press Release (No.3/1/2005-MVI) dated 17th August, 2009 wherein amphibole asbestos and chrysotile asbestos are mentioned implying that the ban on mining of these killer fibers which is banned in over 50 countries has been lifted unmindful of the toll it takes on human life.

The above press release of ministry of mines reiterates what Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) had noted on 13th April, 2008 based on its reading of the National Mineral Policy that India continues to use both Amphibole and Chrysotile varieties of Asbestos ignoring the toll it takes on national health. BANI is engaged in research, advocacy and awareness raising to ensure ban on manufacture, use, and import of all forms of asbestos. It seeks immediate legal and legislative remedy for asbestos victims in partnership with global efforts.

World over, asbestos-based multinational corporations are all in bankruptcy proceedings and/or shifting to other businesses but this policy shows how Indian government has adopted a considered Ostrich policy in face of indisputable evidence about the havoc from asbestos consumption. Unmindful of the ongoing to global momentum to ban this mineral, asbestos cancer epidemic in India is a story of monumental failure to protect the public health. The callousness that is manifest
in the National Mineral Policy towards occupational and public health is unpardonable.

BANI finds such governmental patronage to asbestos mining and manufacturing industry of all ilk quite alarming in view of its obstinate refusal of the government to prevent even preventable
cancers from this killer mineral fiber. This tantamounts to policymaking that is manifestly anti-national in character since it illustrates complete disregard for citizen's health. The government is pretending ignorance about the disturbing developments in countries like France where asbestos had been a "health catastrophe" as it is responsible for an estimated 2,000 deaths annually. In US, the death rate due to past expsoure to asbestos fibers is 10, 000 per annum.
Similar trends have been reported from Europe, Australia, Japan and other countries which have banned asbestos.

Clearly, besides asbestos product manufacturers like Visaka Industries, Hyderabad Industries Limited, Ramco Industries Limited, Utkal Industries Ltd, Everest Industries Ltd, New Sahyadri Industries Ltd, U P Asbestos Ltd, Tamil Nadu Cements Corporation Limited, Kerala Asbestos Cement pipe Factory Limited, and others, the Indian asbestos producers too have successful in their lobbying efforts in face of glaring human cost asbestos consumption in some 50 countries that have
banned asbestos.

Asbestos is one of the most pervasive environmental hazards in the world, present in more than 3,000 manufactured products. The asbestos cancer epidemic is largely preventable if the Ministry of Mines & Minerals, Commerce Ministry and Health Ministry act urgently, early and responsibly by acknowledging that in addition to other asbestos related diseases, 5-7% of all lung cancers can be attributed to occupational exposures to asbestos. All forms of asbestos including amphibole and chrysotile variety cause four health disorders.

Asbestos exposure affects not only asbestos workers but also their families, users of asbestos products, and the public as it is exposed to building materials and asbestos in heating and ventilating systems. In India, where protection of workers and communities is scant or nonexistent, the asbestos cancer epidemic may be even more devastating than it has been in developed countries like US, Europe, Australia, Japan & others. The battle against asbestos is in danger of being lost where the human costs may be greatest, in countries like India that is
desperate for industry.

According to a paper "Monitoring and identification of airborne asbestos in unorganized sectors, India" (Qamar Rahman et al Volume 68, Chemosphere journal), unorganized asbestos units particularly mills showed unhealthy occupational. In another recent paper in Environmental Health Perspectives, a US journal published by National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences notes that besides workers and consumers, "Family members of asbestos workers are at increased risk of malignant mesothelioma." Dr Qamar Rahman, a senior scientist formerly with ITRC, and Dean, Research & Development, Integral University, Lucknow who did the research says that on the basis of the report and recent studies conducted in the milling units, the ban on asbestos mining should not be lifted. Dr Rahman said in her comments to the central government on a report regarding lifting the ban on asbestos mining.

In choosing to lift the ban on asbestos mining it ignores sane suggestions in the same way as it has ignored the plight of victims of white asbestos mines in Roro Hills, Chaibasa, Jharkhand abandoned by Hyderabad Asbestos Cement Products Limited (now known as Hyderabad Industries Limited). It is noteworthy that Rajasthan produces asbestos in the country despite repeated statements in the parliament stating that asbestos mining remains banned in India so far. The asbestos that is mined is processed there in unorganized sectors including milling and manufacturing of asbestos-based products.

BANI condemns the decision of the Ministry of MInes to lift the existing ban on asbestos mining by ignoring the views of exposure victims, trade unions and citizen groups besides the informed
recommendations of public sector medical experts, and mounting evidence of an asbestos disease epidemic.

We appeal to you to reconsider your decision with regard to asbestos mining in public interest.

Yours Sincerely
Gopal Krishna
Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)
New Delhi
Mb: 9818089660
Skype id: witnesskrishna

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