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.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Breathing toxi-city

Ashpreet Sethi, New Delhi, Jun 13, 2012, DHNS :

Govt ignored NHRC notice on asbestos use: Experts

The Delhi government has not responded to a notice by the National Human Rights Commission on removing all asbestos sheets from across Delhi last year, alleged environmentalists.

Prolonged exposure to asbestos can cause severe health problems. White asbestos are fibrous material used for building roofs and walls, and they can cause lung cancer. Health experts have been raising concern over the use of this material since 2001.

Even the NHRC’s Annual Report of 2003-2004 refers to a report titled ‘Asbestos: An In-Depth Study’ submitted by the Institute of Public Health Engineers, underlining that safe and controlled use of asbestos is impossible.

The NHRC’s recommendations state that asbestos sheets should be replaced with harmless material. All structures in Delhi, ranging from schools to hospitals have asbestos sheets.

Notice issued last year

The NHRC had issued this notice to the chief secretary on July 6, 2011, while acting on a complaint by Toxic Watch Alliance (TWA). The NHRC statement dated June 5, 2012 highlighted that the department has not filed its report on asbestos exposure in Delhi.

“Most authorities at the Centre level as well as states and Union Territories have failed to give reports to the NHRC on safeguarding exposure to asbestos.”

‘Residents unsafe’

“It is sad that the Delhi government is acting like an ostrich and is waiting for the epidemic of incurable asbestos related diseases like lung cancer and ovarian cancer to be identified in great numbers,” said Gopal Krishna, activist with TWA.

“The department’s failure to submit the report shows that it has a callous attitude towards health issues. It is also under tremendous pressure from the white asbestos industry,” said Krishna.

Even the People’s Summit in Rio, Brazil, will organise a programme on ‘Deadly Business: Asbestos’ on June 15.

The invitation highlighted that the most vulnerable communities who use and work with asbestos are in India, where mostly women and children are exposed to the harm associated with this material.

Krishna said the Union environment ministry’s 19-page vision statement on health reads, “Alternatives to asbestos may be used to the extent possible and use of asbestos may be phased out.”

Railways lead by example

On the positive side, activists said the railway ministry has circulated an order within the department asking all divisional railway managers to replace white asbestos with aluminium sheets.

New Delhi railway station is the first area in Delhi that has decided to go asbestos free and prevent damage to public health.

“We have 16 platforms in New Delhi railway station, of which 13 have been replaced with aluminium sheets. The rest will be replaced soon,” said A K Sachan, New Delhi DRM.

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