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.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Drive towards ban gathers pace

The drive to ban the asbestos cement industry is slowly gaining momentum but not without its usual obstacles.

Despite being banned in numerous countries for its toxic side effects and carcinogenic properties, the asbestos cement product manufacturers are still pushing for widespread usage of this building material in building large-scale low cost rural development here in India.

Asbestos cement products and their manufacturing technology today, according to their manufacturers are amongst the most eco-friendly and safe technologies but a survey conducted a few years ago showed that imported asbestos which was widely used in India, came without adequate protections for the workers who then proceeded to use to make asbestos cement products.

In India the workers slice open the bags of Canadian asbestos with knives, then shaking the bags into troughs and mixing it with cement to make piping, covering them in asbestos dust with no precautions in place.

Studies have shown that once the cement sheets are made, the discharge from the asbestos content is not as extensive but since in India, protection measures and policies for the labourers are not in place, they directly exposing themselves to asbestos causes a lot of long term damage to the labourers’ health.

The government research has tried to research into alternative vegetable fibres and wastes as reinforcements for fibre-cements continue. They have developed roofing tiles and blocks using coir fibre and cement and recently work, which has been sponsored by the agriculture ministry, has begun on developing cement building materials incorporating by-products of oilseeds, pulses, and maize.

According to the industry participants these non-mineral fibres were not able to withstand the heat or pressure of the cement pipe manufacturing process, nor have they met the desired quality standards.

Moreover, their availability in huge commercial quantities is not possible without serious negative effects on other sectors of the economy or the environment.

The industry also campaigns on the fact that many developing nations are in the process of building and expanding their water distribution and sewerage networks along with building extensive low cost rural housing schemes. This process is critical to the development of society along with the basic quality of life of the citizens.

Championing this cause further, the manufacturers say to construct a decent shelter; pipe borne potable water; drainage and waste disposal systems and irrigation facilities for developing countries making the use of asbestos cement products an obvious choice for these nations.

Despite such reasoning, the market share of these pipes has dropped drastically from 35 per cent to 3 per cent in the last few years.

Despite numerous research studies submitted to the government, the government has yet to ban this metal. Various countries including Poland, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, New Zealand and Chile among others have banned this metal.

In countries like Germany, even the demolishing of old buildings is cause for the concern for the government due to the additional asbestos that it releases into the environment.

Contrarily the Indian government has lowered import duties for asbestos by 68 per cent between 1995-2000, giving asbestos imports a decided advantage over polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) fibres, its immediate competitor, whose duties are at about the levels that asbestos was in 1995.

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