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.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Bhojpur, Bihar & One Sided Story on Asbestos

Bihar Industry Association (BIA) members say that there are 54 asbestos plants which are functional in different parts of India. “Out of this, three are already in Bihar — Bihia, Giddha (Ara) and Mahua (Hajipur),” said a senior BIA member. “Besides, the one in question (near Muzaffapur) and two plants near Bettiah are in the pipe-line,” he said and added, “Still India continues to import huge quantity of asbestos from 28 foreign countries.”

Bihar industry circle is treating the controversy over asbestos plant as a test case for Nitish. Traders argue that an NGO — BANI (Ban Asbestos Network of India) too has jumped into the demonstration fray despite the ruling of apex court headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia on January 21. Questioning the incoherent theories over the issue, he said, “If a rule is applicable throughout India, then it’s also applicable in Bihar.” For the complete story check:

The story above storyprovides only the version of the asbestos industry.

BANI's version is given below:

As to the order dated January 21, 2011, Hon’ble Supreme Court’s bench of Chief Justice of India Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justice K.S. Panicker Radhakrishnan and Justice Swatanter Kumar, it must be noted that it reads: “Canada and Russia are the biggest exporters of white asbestos. In 2007, Canada exported 95% of the white asbestos, it mined out of which 43% was shipped to India. In view of these facts, there is an urgent need for a total ban on the import and use of white asbestos and promote the use of alternative materials.”

Union Environment Ministry’s 19 page Vision Statement on Environment and Human Health (Para 4.3.1) on page 12 which 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. The Supreme Court's order simply reiterates what is stated in Union Environment Ministry’s Vision Statement on Environment and Human Health which reads: “Alternatives to asbestos may be used to the extent possible and use of asbestos may be phased out”.

The order of Kerala Human Rights Commission (KHRC) recommending ban on use of asbestos roofs for schools and hospitals and National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) terming exposing human beings to asbestos fibers as human rights violation merits serious attention. The KHRC and its chairperson Justice N Dhinakar has ruled that exposing Indians to asbestos is a human rights violation. This paves the way for the eventual complete ban on asbestos and its products.

On January 31, 2009, KHRC ruled that the government should take steps to phase out asbestos roofing from all schools in the state. The commission has directed the state government to replace the asbestos roofs of those school buildings under the government control with country tiles in a phased manner. The government has been directed to initiate measures to ensure that asbestos roofs are replaced with country tiles within a fixed time-frame in the case of schools that are run under the private managements. The state government has been directed to make sure that no new school begins functioning with asbestos roofing in the future. The petition submitted to the commission complained that roofing school buildings with asbestos were hazardous to the health of children.

Hon’ble Supreme Court's order dated 24th October, 2008 wherein prohibition on import of Asbestos into India as it is a major health hazard was sought. According to the petitioner, huge quantity of Asbestos is being imported from other countries causing health problems. The Hon’ble Court asked the matter to be pursued with the Government/appropriate authority. BANI is working in pursuance of the same.

India media must pay attention to the upcoming the 5th Conference of the Parties (COP5) to the UN’s Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade to be held in Geneva wherein the fate of Chrysotile asbestos and some other chemicals will be be decided. The objective of the Rotterdam Convention “is to promote shared responsibility and cooperative efforts among Parties in the international trade of certain hazardous chemicals in order to protect human health and the environment from potential harm.”

In order to meet its objective, COP5 of Rotterdam Convention will consider the inclusion in Annex III of chrysotile asbestos and other chemicals under agenda item 5 c during the meeting scheduled for June 20-24, 2011.

It is noteworthy that the inclusion in Annex III does not equate to a prohibition of trade. It imposes requirements on exporting nations to provide basic information to consumers and customers environmental health hazards due to certain hazardous chemicals and pesticides in international trade.

Several attempts to include chrysotile asbestos (White Asbestos) on the prior informed consent list have failed due to the influence of asbestos producing countries who are compelled by their companies led by Quebec based Canadian companies who have succeeded in preventing any action on chrysotile asbestos being taken.

Discussions on chrysotile asbestos at the COP 4 of Rotterdam Convention in 2008 took a decision to examine its listing at COP5 in June 2011.

In a statement Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare had informed the Rajya Sabha saying: “Studies by the National Institute of Occupational Health, Ahmedabad, have shown that long-term exposure to any type of asbestos can lead to the development of asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma” on August 18, 2003.

This clearly implies that white asbestos or Chrysotile asbestos is a health hazard which is essentially what COP5 is to decide in Geneva. As you are aware White asbestos or Chrysotile asbestos is used mainly for water pipes or as roofing sheets in construction industry. Asbestos dust can be inhaled while drilling, cutting a pipe, repairing, renovating or demolishing a building and its effects are far-reaching, affecting everyone from the person mining it to the ultimate consumer. Clinical reports show that asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer can show up even 25 to 40 years after exposure to asbestos.

In our country too, all cases of mesothelioma, an aggressive asbestos-related cancer are linked to asbestos exposure. All the medical colleges in India must teach that most cases of mesothelioma are related to enviro-occupational asbestos exposure that often occurred decades earlier in industries heavily dependent on asbestos-based products. These industries include construction, automobile repair and shipbuilding.

It is a glaring fact that the members of Chrysotile Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association (CACPMA), Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association of India (ASCMA) and other industries based on killer fibers of asbestos are knowingly exposing workers, their families and consumers.

While the medical and financial relief (compensation) for the illness of workers, their families and consumers must be borne by the companies in question, in India because of political patronage members of both CACPMA, ASCMA and others have escaped liability and have not been made accountable.

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