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

Why putting up an asbestos plant in Bihar is a terrible idea!

Editor’s note: being a laggard in development has obvious disadvantages. But even as an economy like Bihar’s tries to find its feet, one finds that the investment and business offers that come along may be the worst possible, and indeed ones which have been driven out of the relatively developed economies. India has been made numerous offers inherently dangerous for its populace and environment – for example providing dumping space for highly toxic wastes from developed countries for a handsome fee and profit. Are we so desperate that we are ready to get killed in order to find decent lives?

We are publishing below an extract from a letter by the Ban asbestos Network of India to the deputy CM of Bihar, Sushil Kumar Modi. The context for this is the continued struggle of villagers of Bishnupur-Chainpur, Muzaffarpur who have been agitating for ban against the Kolkata-headquartered Balmukund Cement & Roofing Ltd. (BCRL) proposed asbestos cement roofing sheet factory in the Marwan block. the extract from the letter explains in some details the hazards of asbestos.


Shri Sushil Kumar Modi

Deputy Chief Minister

Government of Bihar

Subject-Stop Asbestos Cement Plants in Bihar


This is to draw your urgent attention towards the proposed asbestos cement roofing sheet factory in Chainpur, Muzaffarpur which is facing massive and unprecedented opposition by the villagers since July 2010. It has come to light that similar plants have been proposed by Chennai based Ramco Industries Limited in Bihiya, Bhojpur and Kolkata based Utkal Asbetsos Industries, in Panapur, Vaishali.

I wish to inform you that The White Asbestos (Ban on Use and Import) Bill, 2009 is pending in the Rajya Sabha. Some 52 countries have already banned it. There is a compelling logic to initiate the process of banning asbestos manufacturing, trade and use in Bihar as well.

It is estimated that “currently about 125 million people in the world are exposed to asbestos at the workplace. According to WHO estimates, more than 107,000 people die each year from asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis resulting from occupational exposures. One in every three deaths from occupational cancer is estimated to be caused by asbestos. In addition, it is estimated that several thousands of deaths can be attributed annually to exposure to asbestos in the living environment.” There is a list of documents reflecting WHO’s assessment of the risks of the different forms of asbestos and WHOs’ technical directions and recommendations for the elimination of asbestos-related diseases. Please find attached a scientifically referenced fact sheet on elimination of asbestos prepared by WHO.

When the world is preparing and planning to get rid of all forms of asbestos, it makes us look stupid in Bihar, India to be still importing it, we should devote our scarce resources to prevent the impending public health disaster by phasing out this killer fiber as soon as we can.

Safer substitute materials for white asbestos are available, they should be considered for use. White (chrysotile) asbestos, which represents 100% of the global asbestos trade is not yet completely banned in India but all the relevant UN agencies have called for its immediate elimination because its safe and controlled use is impossible.

Strangely, India has banned mining of asbestos which used to be done in Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand by banning non-renewal of pre-existing leases including chrysotile asbestos mines due to health hazards from its lethal fibers but allows countries like Canada to dump their asbestos in India. Asbestos waste trade is also banned in India. Besides White Asbestos, all the other forms of asbestos such as Blue Asbestos, Brown Asbestos are banned in India. But Chrysotile (white) asbestos is yet to be banned despite incontrovertible evidence against it.

Asbestos exposure leads to diseases like mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, asbestosis, pleural thickening. Mesothelioma is a cancer which affects the lining of the lungs (pleura) and the lining surrounding the lower digestive tract (peritoneum). It is almost exclusively related to asbestos exposure and by the time it is diagnosed, it is almost always fatal.

These asbestos factories are proposed unmindful of the fact that World Health Organisation (WHO) and International Labour Organisation (ILO) too have called for the elimination of asbestos of all kinds. Delay in stopping asbestos plants in Bihar is a victory for those who do not wish to put health and the environment ahead of commercial interests.

The WHO document says, “Elimination of asbestos-related diseases should take place through the following public health actions: a) recognizing that the most efficient way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases is to stop the use of all types of asbestos; b) replacing asbestos with safer substitutes and developing economic and technological mechanisms to stimulate its replacement; c) taking measures to prevent exposure to asbestos in place and during asbestos removal (abatement), and; d) improving early diagnosis, treatment, social and medical rehabilitation of asbestos-related diseases and establishing registries of people with past and/or current exposures to asbestos.”

In the light of these findings and developments, in short I seek your immediate intervention to stop the construction of proposed asbestos cement plants in Bihar.

We earnestly request you to direct all the workers and consumers in your state to take immediate steps to ensure that there no more exposures take place from now on.

Thanking you in anticipation,

Gopal Krishna, Convener, Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)

New Delhi

Mb: 9818089660

P.S: Three asbestos plants by Tamil Nadu based Ramco and Nibhi Industries in Giddha, Koilwar and Bihiya Bhojpur is facing opposition. On May 11, 2011 when the Chief Minister visited Bihiya letters were sent to him demanding closure of these killer industries.

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