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.

Friday, May 20, 2011

BANI regrets media’s role in fight against asbestos in Bihar

Patna,(BiharTimes): The Convenor of Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI), Gopal Krishna, has regretted that it is quite disturbing that media in Bihar, obviously at the behest of the state government, is adopting an unscientific and anti-public health approach in dealing with incurable diseases caused by the killer fibers of asbestos.In a letter written to the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Union Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, Union Health Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, other Union cabinet ministers, BJP leader, Lal Krishna Advani, and Leaders of Opposition in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley he drew the attention towards the three white asbestos plants being set up in Koilwar and Bihiya in Bhojpur district. He said the villagers are against these three lung cancer causing asbestos plants. Such plants are banned in over 55 countries and work should be stopped here as it had been stopped in Muzaffarpur after a prolong agitation a few months back.

The letter had a declaration signedby seven eminent scientists and jurists of the world with their emails.

According to Krishna alarmed by trend of proposals for new asbestos plants in Bhojpur, Federico Demaria, a Italian researcher based in University of Barcelona, Spain who visited the district recently wrote a letter to the Chief Minister with copies marked to the Deputy Chief Minister, Union Environment Minister and Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI).

In an age when most scientific and medical studies are available online, it does not require great effort to comprehend that there is no alternative to banning use and manufacture of asbestos products in Bihar in the same way as Kerala and Karnataka banned Endosulfan because health is a state subject, he said.

He said that as the State government did take progressive steps in the matter of not following the path of Special Economic Zone (SEZ), GM Food etc it can do the same if it is made to realize that there is no doubt about the eventual ban on asbestos fibers. It is the timing of the ban which is the issue. Will the state government ban it before losing its prestige or will it do so after having lost it?

He said that “if newspapers and news channels appear to be newsletters of the State Government and exercise self-censorship even when manifestly hazardous asbestos plants are being set up, it would lose the right to claim that it works in public interest. One is wondering whether or not media in Bihar has become obedient to the whims and fancies of the state government.”

“If the current trend continues we will be compelled to move to the Press Council of India and to all the other committees which has been formed to deal with the problem of Paid News to complain against such a malaise. It would be difficult to prove with simple content analysis as to how some newspapers and some news channels in particular have censored news against incurable lung cancer causing asbestos plants in Bhojpur. All the practitioners of media in general and trained journalists in particular know that one of the ways to kill news is to localise it and keep it confined to one page that gets inserted in that area. This phenomena is quite visible and merits considered attention,”. Krishna further said.

He asked has any of the newspapers and news channels in Bihar bothered to check Union Environment Ministry's 19 page Vision Statement on Environment and Human Health (Para 4.3.1) on Page 12 reads: "Alternatives to asbestos may be used to the extent possible and use of asbestos may be phased out"?. This is available on Ministry's website.

According to him in Bihiya, there is a proposal to set up a 120,000 MT/Annum capacity of Asbestos Cement Sheet Plant and 200,000 MT/Annum capacity of Asbestos Grinding Plant. The total project area is 20 acres and land is allotted by the state government on lease for 90 years.

In Giddha village in Bhojpur, Tamil Nadu based Nibhi Industries Pvt. Ltd is establishing the 100,000 MT Capacity Asbestos Fiber Cement Corrugated Sheet, Flat Sheet and Accessories and Light Weight Fly Ash Block Plant. This has been approved in SIPB meeting on 19th October, 2009 with a total investment for of Rs 31 crore.

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