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, October 13, 2010

Canada loses out on UN Security Council seat due to Asbestos?

Note: India is an aspirant for UN Security Council's permanent seat. Although it won the non-permanent seat, it should ban asbestos with immediate effect for permanent membership.

Canada suffered a devastating blow both to its self-image and its international reputation, for the first time in 60 years losing a bid for a UN Security Council seat.

The 15-member council, the UN’s most important decision-making body, has 10 rotating seats. Two of these, assigned to Western-bloc nations, were up for grabs Tuesday.

Both Germany and Portugal — an afterthought nation with a population of just 10 million — beat out Canada in a stunning vote decision that could shift Canadians’ view of their country as a principled global player and international boy scout.

The vote result also could damage the profile of the Harper Conservatives, who are bound to be blamed for failing to safeguard what was assumed to be Canada’s proud standing in the world.

Canada is a founding member of the UN and the seventh-largest contributor to its finances. In recent years this country has made an outsized contribution to the UN-backed war effort in Afghanistan.

“Our failure to win a UN Security Council seat is Canada’s Hindenburg moment,” intoned the Rideau Institute, referring to the 1937 disaster in which a German airship was destroyed by fire.

The Ottawa-based institute, specializing in foreign and defence policy, attempted to explain the vote debacle:

“Canadians pride themselves on our global role, but Canada’s dismal performance on climate change, foreign aid, peacekeeping, asbestos, reproductive rights and the Middle East, has taken a heavy toll.”

It’s difficult to ascribe precise motives for the voting decisions of so many different countries. But what should be remembered is that the allocation of the two coveted seats reflected a numbers game.

And votes largely reflect crass self-interest — a notion that explains some of the questionable positions taken in the past by the UN.

After all, Libya votes. Iran votes. Somalia votes.

Let’s face it, Canada wouldn’t have been top pick Tuesday against the likes of Portugal and Germany in the eyes of:

• Other European Union countries, which would favour their own;

• Arab nations, miffed by the Harper government’s stalwart support of Israel. Conservatives as recently as Monday announced enhanced trade ties with the Middle East’s lone democracy;

• African countries, possibly perturbed by Canadian aid cutbacks.

Running for political cover, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon declared: “I do not in any way see this as a repudiation of Canada’s foreign policy.”

Rather, he blamed critical comments last month by Michael Ignatieff, as if foreign countries would heed any opposition politician’s musings.

The Liberal leader had questioned whether Canada had earned the right to a UN Security Council seat given its foreign policy record.

Ignatieff Tuesday insisted, “The responsibility for this vote lies squarely and exclusively with the Harper government.

“The blame game is a sign of a government failing to absorb the lessons of defeat.”

He pointed to what he termed Canadian neglect of Africa and China, and lack of action at the Copenhagen climate-change conference last year.

He also criticized Ottawa’s handling of a new conflict with the United Arab Emirates involving airline landing rights in Canada.

New Democratic Party critic Paul Dewar called the seat loss “devastating for our country’s reputation. We have lost our reach,” he said.

The Ottawa Centre MP lamented, “if we are not at the table we cannot get the job done. We cannot have influence with respect to UN reform, climate change and issues of peace and security.”

Veteran diplomat Colin Robertson said he was surprised and disappointed by Tuesday’s vote, having “underestimated bloc politics at the UN.”

The senior fellow at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs said Canada must not be discouraged.

“Internationalism serves Canadian interests. We should not disengage.”

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Despite asbestos risk, ship-breaking still a viable industry

Despite asbestos risk, ship-breaking still a viable industry in Bangladesh

In late September, news came from Dhaka, Bangladesh that the State Minister for Environment and Forest, Hasan Mahmud, and the national government were in the midst of finalizing a policy to ensure that the ship-breaking industry would operate without polluting the environment. To prevent the elimination of the ship-building industry, which Mahmud claims will turn Bangladesh into a “market for foreign ironmongers,” the government is hoping to establish a separate zone for this industry.

Ruling Awami League lawmaker and Chief of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour and Employment Ministry, M. Israfil Alam, however, believes that ship-breaking is an extremely hazardous and polluting industry and is demanding its immediate closure. Israfil supported his demands by citing the High Court in Hyderabad, India ban on all ship scrapping.

“Our High Court gave some directives for the ship breaking yards but the owners seldom comply with those directives. They are making our environment more vulnerable by bringing in abandoned ships loaded with asbestos which is very harmful for public health,” said Israfil, who is entirely correct about the danger of asbestos within the shipbuilding and breaking industry.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring yet carcinogenic mineral long used in shipbuilding. Long term exposure to asbestos is known to cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the lining of the chest and abdomen and the organs contained therein. Asbestos is most dangerous when it is disturbed, causing it to break and crumble, which in turn releases toxic fibers into the air that can be easily inhaled.

If they do not wear the proper protective gear and the industry is not properly regulated, ship-breakers are at a very high risk of breathing asbestos on a daily basis and contracting the oftentimes fatal pleural mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lungs. However, Minister Mahmud insists that all importers require clearance certificates that the ships do not carry any harmful substances and that the government is “now working on how to dismantle the vessels and ensure safe and hazard free environment at the same time.”

Indian consortium makes cash offer to revive rare Canadian asbestos mine

MONTREAL - An Indian consortium has made an offer to buy one of Canada's last remaining asbestos mines and extend its life.

The group made a bid last Thursday to purchase the cash-strapped Jeffrey Mine in the Quebec town of Asbestos.

Jeffrey president Bernard Coulombe confirmed Tuesday that he received a pitch, but would not say how much the consortium has put on the table.

"We're looking at (the offer) very seriously and we have one week to respond," Coulombe said in an interview.

"The offer is serious because it was officially presented with a guaranteed deposit."

The 131-year-old Jeffrey mine is one of only two sites in Canada that still extracts the controversial substance, blamed for causing serious health issues, including cancer.

The World Health Organization says asbestos-related diseases cause 90,000 deaths annually around the world.

The Canadian asbestos industry has been heavily criticized for exporting the mineral to developing countries where few, if any, safety measures to limit exposure are followed.

India is one of Canada's biggest asbestos customers.

But supporters of the industry, and its Quebec variety known as chrysotile, argue that it's safe to use as long as it's handled properly.

Coulombe said the deal would give Jeffrey the necessary funds to complete a new underground section of the mine, extending its life for another 25 years.

Breathing new life into the mine would also create hundreds of direct and indirect jobs in the area.

The news is promising for the local mine workers' union, which has also received a copy of the offer.

"I'm optimistic," said union president Normand St-Hilaire, who represents between 600 to 800 workers.

St-Hilaire said the union will meet this Sunday, when details of the proposal will be presented to its members.

But even if the offer is accepted, there are no guarantees it would revive Jeffrey, which is currently under bankruptcy protection.

The Quebec government has yet to decide whether to guarantee a critical $58-million bank loan the company says it needs to restart operations.

Still, the deal would meet one of several conditions the province wants Jeffrey to meet in exchange for its support to secure the financing.

Economic Development Minister Clement Gignac said the mine must find new partners to invest $15 million, which is the balance of the $73-million total needed to reopen the project.

The government also said the mine's customers must agree to adhere to Quebec standards on the safe handling of asbestos.

Gignac also wants an independent firm to ensure the company will be profitable before he backs the loan.

Coulombe's announcement Tuesday comes after he accused Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff of scaring off a would-be investor from China.

He said last summer that he had the investor lined up and willing to inject $40 million, but it backed off after Ignatieff commented on the industry.

Ignatieff has called for a ban on exports of the material. His office immediately expressed skepticism over Coulombe's claim that the Liberal leader's remarks might have torpedoed the deal.

The Conservative government has repeatedly voiced its support for the industry.

In recent months, Canada's asbestos sector has also become the target of a growing international campaign.

Health professionals and anti-asbestos activists from around the world have spoken out against Canadian exports.

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