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, June 19, 2012

Medha Patkar, Dr Barry Castleman Demand permanent closure of white asbestos factory

Press Release

Medha Patkar, Dr Barry Castleman Demand permanent closure of white asbestos factory

Dr Castleman warns Bihar Chief Minister against public health disaster

Vaishali villagers Get National and International Support for their struggle against Utkal’s white asbestos plant

Vaishali/Patna/New Delhi June 20, 2012: Medha Patkar of National Alliance of Peoples’ Movements (NAPM) and Dr Barry Castleman, a world renowned public health expert from California, USA have written to the Government of Bihar supporting the struggle of villagers of Vaishali’s Chaksultan Rampur Rajdhari near Panapur in Kanhauli Dhanraj Panchayat of Goraul block against the proposed white asbestos plant of Kolkata based Utkal Asbestos Limited (UAL) company. They have demanded permanent closure of asbestos factories in Bihar. Both Dr Castleman’s and NAPM’s letter are attached.

Dr Barry Castleman wrote to Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister, Bihar saying, “As you have learned by now, over 50 countries have banned the use ofall forms of asbestos because of unacceptable dangers to public health. Public reaction to the rampant growth of asbestos use in India has taken the form of Mahadharnas against the construction of new asbestos product factories. Opposition to asbestos use has closed down the asbestos mines in Canada and is on the verge of doing the same in Brazil. This will leave as the major asbestos mining countries only Russia, China, and Kazakhstan. Most of the world has followed the urgings of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the example of the World Bank to stop using asbestos in new construction. Use of asbestos in building homes and workplaces now leaves a legacy of lethal dangers for workers and building occupants for the rest of the century.” The pictures of Mahadharna are attached.

Medha Patkar wrote to Navin Kumar, Chief Secretary, “Apart from the grave health impacts of white asbestos, there are a number of serious violations by the Utkal Asbestos Limited plant that must be taken into account. It has been falsely shown in its Environment Impact Assessment maps, that barren land has been acquired, when in reality, it is agricultural land that has been used to set up the plant. They have also conveniently left out of their maps, the presence of numerous villages and schools in the area, in order to get clearance! There was no public hearing with the villagers of the area, as is mandatory before the environmental clearance is given. The Khet Bachao Jeevan Bachao Jan Sangarsh Committee [KBJBJC] has been organizing locally against the asbestos plant, highlighting the adverse health impacts of the same.”

She further wrote, “It is important that the government of Bihar takes note of international as well as national resolutions passed against the use of asbestos and implement it effectively at the state level as well. Having said that, I acknowledge that the DM , Mr Jitendra Srivastav has taken prompt action in stopping work at the factory until further orders and has asked that a 15 member committee from amongst the villagers to engage with the administration. The fabricated charges against the peaceful protestors must be condemned and dropped immediately and action be taken against the factory owners and the administrative officials who were responsible for framing false charges against the villagers. I hope you will look into this matter at the earliest and take necessary action in order to ensure that the plant does not violate the rights of local villagers any further, and that social justice accrues.”

Dr Castleman wrote, “I am writing as a public health worker who has worked as a consultant on asbestos to the WHO and the World Bank, in addition to working with public health advocates in India, in hopes that you will side with the protesting villagers who do not want new factories producing asbestos products built in Bihar. This is enormously important in protecting public health and can serve as an example for the rest of India in reducing the impact of a public health disaster in coming decades.”

Both the letters of Medha Patkar and Dr Barry Castleman were translated in Hindi and discussed in Panapur, Vaishali on June 18 at a meeting of the villagers and members of KBJBJC.

ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) which works on impact of hazardous industries on human health health and environment is supporting the struggle of KBJBJC along with all the left parties in Bihar including Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India (ML) Liberation, Socialist Unity Centre of India (Communist), Forward Bloc, Jan Abhiyan, Bihar comprising of Janmukti Sangharsh Vahini, Janwadi Mazdoor Kisan Sabha, Communist Party of India (ML)-SR Bhaiji, Jan Pratirodh Manch, Janwadi Lok Manch, Communist Party of India (ML)-New Democracy, Sarwahara Jan Morcha, MCPI (U) and Communist Party of India (ML). These parties have issued joint statements demanding closure of the asbestos factory and dismissal of fake cases agaisnt the villagers. TWA has issued an appeal to national and international leaders and experts requesting them to ask Bihar Govt to take immediate steps to prevent environmental and occupational exposure to asbestos' besides non-occupational exposures to asbestos by banning use and manufacturing of white asbestos based products.

TWA appeals to all the other opposition parties in the State like Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD), Lok Jansakti Party, Indian National Congress and Bihar Navnirman Manch to support the movement of the villagers of Vaishali and ensure that hazardous asbestos based plants are not allowed in Bihar. It will enhance State’s prestige and show their sensitivity towards grave issues of public health.

TWA feels that the continued silence of Dr. Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, Member of Parliament from Vaishali when his villagers protest against a hazardous plant is deafening and puzzling. Dr Singh, a former Union Rural Development Minister was resoundingly silent even during the villagers’ struggle against a similar asbestos plant in Muzaffarpur despite the fact that his partyman Abdul Bari Siddiqui, Leader of Opposition had raised the issue in the Bihar Vidhan Sabha.

In the meanwhile, Rio+ 20 has come out with its final outcome document in Brazil. Its relevant part reads: “We call for the effective implementation and strengthening of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) as part of a robust, coherent, effective and efficient system for the sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle including to respond to emerging challenges.” TWA contends that Bihar Government does not have any strategic approach to chemicals management throughout their life cycle. The way State Investment Promotion Board has allowed hazardous factories like asbestos based plants demonstrates that despite lack of capacity to deal with even the existing asbestos laden buildings and end-of-life asbestos products is starkly myopic and is an invitation for public health disaster.

For Details: Ajit Kr Singh, Khet Bachao Jeevan Bachao Jan Sangharsh Committee (KBJBJC), Vaishali, Mb: 08002903995, E-mail:
Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), New Delhi Mb: 08002263335, 09818089660, Phone: +91-11-26517814, Fax: +91-11-26517814 Web:,

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