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.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Stop Killer Asbestos Plants of Ramco and Nibhi Industries in Bhojpur

Press Release

Stop Killer Asbestos Plants of Ramco and Nibhi Industries in Bhojpur

Ara/Patna11/5/201: Agitated villagers of Koilwar and Bihiya region in Bhojpur are gearing up for protest against the three lung cancer causing asbestos plants in front of Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister Bihar who is visiting the area today to mark the 31st death anniversary of socialist leader Ramanand Tiwari.

The petitions (Parivaad Sankhya-454/3-2/2011, 948/17/3/2011) have been submitted the District Magistrate but there has been no response. Letters have also been submitted to Managing Director, BIADA, Principal Secretary, Environment, Bihar, Principal Secretary, Industry, Bihar and Principal Secretary, Health in March 2011 but so far villagers have not got any relief.

The villagers are demanding that Bhojpur plants be stopped in the same way as Muzaffarpur based plant has been stopped. Human biology is same everywhere, how can same thing be deemed poisonous in one district and non-poisonous in another district. Villagers say, had Ramanand Tiwari been alive today, he would have supported the villager's struggle against the hazardous factories in Gidha, Koilwar and Bihiya?.

It must be noted that the "Research has found that needle-like crystals permanently penetrate the lung tissue when dust-sized particles of asbestos are inhaled. The crystals can eventually cause scarring of the lungs, called asbestosis, and can cause cancer of the lining of the lung, called mesothelioma. Both diseases are incurable and terminal." Alarmed by such a trend, Federico Demaria, a Italian researcher based in University of Barcelona, Spain who visited Bhojpur 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). The letter is attached

In Bhojpur's Bihiya, there is a proposal to set up a 120,000 MT/Annum capacity of Asbestos Cement Sheet Plant and 2 00000 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.

On 10th May, 2010, the project was discussed by the Experts Appraisal Committee (EAC), Industry. In the minutes of the EAC, there explicit reference to "Health Management Plan for Mesothalimoa, Lung cancer and Asbestosis related problems in asbestos industries". The plant being established by Tamil Nadu based Ramco Industries Ltd. Bihar'S State Investment Promotion Board (SIPB) cleared its establishment on 23rd November, 2009 with a total investment of Rs 60.20 crore.

In Bhojpur's Giddha village, Tamil Nadu based Nibhi Industries Pvt. Ltd is establishing the 100000 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.

In an 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 has observed in para 15, “the Government has already presented the Bill in Rajya Sabha. The statement of objects and reasons of this Bill specifically notices that the white asbestos is highly carcinogenic and it has been so reported by the World Health Organisation. In India, it is imported without any restriction while even its domestic use is not preferred by the exporting countries.” It is noteworthy that once a Bill is introduced in Rajya Sabha, it never lapses.

The Bench of Chief Justice of India notes, “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. The Bill is yet to be passed but it is clearly demonstrated that the Government is required to take effective steps to prevent hazardous impact of use of asbestos.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a new factsheet on asbestos: It re-iterates that the most efficient way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases is to stop the use of all types of asbestos and specifically states that its strategy is particularly targeted at countries still using chrysotile asbestos. The factsheet notes that “more than 107 000 people die each year from asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis resulting from occupational exposure.”

The work of WHO and International Labour Organization (ILO) must be taken cognisance of by Bihar Government in its efforts towards elimination of asbestos-related diseases “by recognizing that the most efficient way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases is to stop the use of all types of asbestos and by providing information about solutions for replacing asbestos with safer substitutes and developing economic and technological mechanisms to stimulate its replacement.”

The New Delhi Declaration Seeking Elimination of cancer causing all forms of asbestos including Chrysotile from India was adopted and endorsed by eminent scientists and doctors on 24th March, 2011. This happened at a Round Table which was organized immediately after the conclusion of International Conference on "Emerging Trends in Preventing Occupational Respiratory Diseases and Cancers in Workplace" at Maulana Azad Medical College that expressed grave concern about asbestos related diseases like lung cancer in the national capital. The Declaration is given below for your perusal and immediate consideration.

The delegates at the Round Table discussed the asbestos policy of Bihar. These delegates shared their views and gave their valuable hand written notes so that it can be used in a credible way while strongly recommending the need for immediate ban on asbestos to Government of India, State Governments and the relevant ministries.

During a visit to New Delhi in March 2011, Dr Alec Farquhar, Managing Director, Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers, Canada said, “We now have around 500 asbestos cancer cases every year in Ontario from a population of 13 million. If you (India) continue on your current path, you will multiply our death count by 100 times. That would be 50, 000 Indian workers dying every year from asbestos. In Ontario, we learned that safe use of asbestos is impossible. I urge you from the bottom of my heart, please do not make the same mistake as we made in Canada. Stop using asbestos and use a safe alternative.”

Professor Elihu D Richter MD MPH, Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Medicine, Israel said, “All form of asbestos kill. India should bury asbestos, not people. Here is a case for examining whether those countries which export asbestos to India are committing a crime against humanity, because they are engaging in willful neglect. India should not repeat the mistakes of going back some 70 years which will kill tens of thousands of workers and their families.” Prof. Richter too was in New Delhi in March 2011.

It must be noted that “No matter what mis-information comes of Canada or the Indian asbestos industry about Chrysotile, there is no question that science has shown that Chrysotile causes asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. This is the conclusion of World Health Organisation. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, and other organizations that have no biases except for protecting people’s health,” said Prof. Arthur L Frank, MD, PhD, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Drexel University School of Public Health, US. He has over 40 years work experience in dealing with asbestos related health effects. He was in India to make a presentation at an International Conference on Occupational Health.

The Collegium Ramazzini, a Italy based independent, international academy founded in 1982 by Irving J. Selikoff, Cesare Maltoni and other eminent scientists has called for the elimination asbestos of all kinds. Presenting her views, Prof (Dr) Qamar Rahman, fellow of National Academy of Sciences, Dean, Integral University, Lucknow & former Deputy Director, Industrial Toxicology Research Centre, Lucknow asserted, “This is high time that Government of India should ban the use of asbestos in India. It has been proven scientifically that asbestos based articles such as roof ceilings, storage tanks will release fibers. The asbestos fibers will be the cause of exposure to our coming generations.” This merits Chief Minister's immediate attention.

It may noted that the conference was organised by Centre for Occupational Health, New Delhi supported by Union Ministry of Labour & Employment, ESI, DGMS and DGFASL in collaboration with Drexel University, US at Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi from 22-24 March, 2011.

The conference was deeply concerned about asbestos related diseases and the alarming rise in consumption of asbestos in Bihar.

In such a backdrop, in short, the Chief Minister ought to take steps on the following points:

· Do not grant environmental clearance to the proposed asbestos sheet plant

· Deny Consent to Establish to this hazardous factory unit

· Create a Registry of Incurable Lung Cancers and Mesothelioma besides a registry of asbestos related diseases

· Start efforts to decontaminate asbestos laden buildings including schools and hospitals

· Create a building registry of those buildings and products which have asbestos.

· Include environmental and occupational health study in the medical education of all the medical colleges in the state

· Stop procurement of cancer causing asbestos based products in Bihar

· Adequately compensate the victims of asbestos-related diseases, create a database of asbestos exposed people and victims as well besides providing legal and possible medical relief and taking preventive measures

The Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) reports of the proposed asbestos plants reveals that they will procure asbestos from Canada. This is happening because of an incestous relationship between ruling parties in Bihar. Several left party organisations are supporting the struggle against asbestos plants in Bhojpur.

For Details: Gopal Krishna, Convener, Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)/Asbestos Mukti Andolan, Mb: 09818089660,,

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