Make India Asbestos Free

Make India Asbestos Free
For Asbestos Free India

Ban-Asbestos-India

Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) works for Asbestos Free India since 2002. Occupational Health India and ToxicsWatch Alliance are its members that includes occupational health doctors, researchers and activists. BANI demands criminal liability for companies and medico-legal remedy for victims. It works with trade unions, human rights, environmental and public health groups. For Details:krishna1715@gmail.com, oshindia@yahoo.in, toxicswatchallaince@gmail.com

Friday, May 15, 2015

Govt must Make India Asbestos Free by rectifying irrationality of banning mining of asbestos but continuing its trade

Inclusion of White Chrysotile Asbestos in the UN List of hazardous substances postponed, to be considered again at Rotterdam Convention’s COP 8

Govt must Make India Asbestos Free by rectifying irrationality of banning mining of asbestos but continuing its trade

INDIA’S INVENTORY OF HAZARDOUS CHEMICALS IMPORT INCLUDES “ASBESTOS”, LIST OF BANNED HAZARDOUS WASTES INCLUDES WASTE ASBESTOS (DUST AND FIBERS)

Documents on hazardous substances like White Chrysotile Asbestos and incurable diseases must be made available in Indian languages

May 15, 2015: Following opposition by Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Zimbabwe to the listing of White Chrysotile Asbestos in the UN list of hazardous substances, UN Rotterdam Convention’s Seventh Conference of Parties (COP7) agreed to postpone the issue of its inclusion for consideration by COP8. Unlike these countries, Inventory of Hazardous Chemicals Import in India prepared by Union Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India lists 'Asbestos' at serial no. 26 as one of the 180 hazardous chemicals imported in India.

In a bizarre act while Government of India has technically banned asbestos mining, it continues to allow import and export of asbestos. "In view of the deleterious effect of asbestos mining on health of the workers, the government has ordered the State governments in 1986 not to grant any new mining lease for asbestos (including Chrysotile variety) in the country" as per Government of India’s letter with reference no. 7/23/84-AM-III/AM-VI dated 09.07.1986, Government must make India asbestos free by rectifying the irrationality of banning mining of asbestos but continuing its trade.

Incidentally, United Nations Committee of Experts on the Transportation of Dangerous Goods classifies Chrysotile Asbestos in Hazard Class and Packing Group, UN number 2590, Class 9 – Miscellaneous dangerous goods and articles. Its International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code is UN No: 2590: Class or division 9.
Notably, all the forms of asbestos including Actinolite asbestos, Anthophyllite, Amosite asbestos, Crocidolite and Tremolite are already in the PIC list except White Chrysotile Asbestos. While there is a genral prohibition on production, importation, commercialization and use of Asbestos fibres Amphiboles forms (Crocidolites, Amosite, Actinolite, Tremolite, Anthophyllite) and products formulated on its basis but India gives "Consent to import only subject to specified conditions" for Anthophyllite. Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) has been struggling to ensure its inclusion of all kinds of asbestos in the Convention’s hazardous substances list.

The inclusion of Chrysotile Asbestos in Annex III to the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade was on the agenda of its CoP 7. It was part of matters related to the implementation of the Convention through consideration of chemicals for inclusion in Annex III to the Convention through UN document no. UNEP/FAO/RC/COP.7/11. The chemicals in the PIC list are clearly divided into two groups: industrial chemicals and pesticides. Parties make import responses for each chemical and the responses are published in the PIC Circular. The criteria for listing a chemical in Annex III are contained in Annex II of the Convention.

In accordance with articles 5 and 7 of the Convention, the Chemical Review Committee (CRC) at its second meeting recommended the listing of chrysotile asbestos in Annex III to the Convention, approved the text of a draft decision guidance document on chrysotile asbestos (UNEP/FAO/RC/COP.7/11/Add.1, annex) and decided to forward the recommendation and the draft decision guidance document to the Conference of the Parties for consideration.

At its third meeting, the Conference of the Parties deliberated on the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos in Annex III to the Convention and, by paragraph 2 of decision RC-3/3, decided that the requirements set out in article 5, including the criteria set out in Annex II to the Convention as referenced in paragraph 6 of article 5 of the Convention, the requirements set out in paragraph 1 of article 7 of the Convention and the requirements set out in the first sentence of paragraph 2 of Article 7 of the Convention on the process for listing in Annex III to the Convention, had been met. The Conference of the Parties, however, did not reach consensus on whether to list chrysotile asbestos and, by paragraph 1 of decision RC-3/3, decided to further consider the amendment of Annex III to the Rotterdam Convention to include chrysotile asbestos at its fourth meeting.

At its fourth and fifth meetings, the Conference of the Parties deliberated on the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos in Annex III to the Rotterdam Convention, but was not able to reach consensus. At the fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties, the contact group on candidate chemicals prepared a draft decision on follow-up action by the Chemical Review Committee on the listing of chrysotile asbestos. As the chemical was not listed, the Conference of the Parties agreed to annex the draft decision to the report of the Conference on the work of its fifth meeting for possible consideration at a future meeting (UNEP/FAO/RC/COP.5/26, annex IV).

Following discussions at its sixth meeting, the Conference of the Parties decided, given the lack of consensus, to include further consideration of the listing of chrysotile asbestos in Annex III to the Convention on the agenda of its seventh meeting (UNEP/FAO/RC/COP.6/20, para.79).

At CoP 7, the proposed action included parties to satisfy themselves that all the requirements for listing in Annex III have been met after considering the recommendation of the CRC to make chrysotile asbestos subject to the prior informed consent procedure and accordingly to list the chemical in Annex III to the Convention. Following which they were supposed to decide to amend Annex III to the Convention to list Chrysotile Asbestos, the industrial chemical. It was also supposed to decide that this amendment to enter into force for all parties on 15th September 2015 after approving the draft decision guidance document on chrysotile asbestos. But the proceedings did not proceed as proposed.  

On 14th May, 2015, COP7 considered the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos in Annex III of the Convention (UNEP/FAO/RC/COP.7/11) but owing to opposition from interested parties like the Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Zimbabwe, the issue of listing of chrysotile asbestos has been deferred yet again for consideration by CoP8.

The obligations of the Convention on responsible trade fall on those exporting countries that are Parties to the Convention. The Convention requires countries to strengthen their own chemicals management infrastructures and enforcement mechanisms. The Convention includes final regulatory actions (bans or severe restrictions) where the action was taken for the purposes of human health OR environmental reasons but mere listing does not lead to ban. The inclusion of chemicals in Annex III is not an invitation for Parties to ban their use. The purpose of the prior informed consent procedure is to allow countries to make their own informed decisions on future imports of the chemical depending on their own needs, circumstances and uses of the chemical. However, if a Party decides not to allow any future import of a PIC chemical, then they must also ensure that any domestic manufacture and use of the chemical is banned. Imports of the chemical from non-Parties to the Convention should also not be allowed.

As at 31 October 2014, there were 154 parties to the Convention. During the reporting period (June 2013 to December 2014), four States- Afghanistan, Cambodia, Sao Tome and Principe and Indonesia acceded to or ratified the Convention.

The substances listed in the Annex III include Alachlor, Aldicarb, Aldrin, Azinphos-methyl, Binapacryl, Captafol, Chlordane, Chlordimeform, Chlorobenzilate, DDT, Dieldrin, Dinitro-ortho-cresol (DNOC) and its salts (such as ammonium salt, potassium salt and sodium salt),  Dinoseb and its salts and esters, EDB (1,2-dibromoethane), Endosulfan, Ethylene dichloride, Ethylene oxide, Fluoroacetamide, HCH (mixed isomers), Heptachlor, Hexachlorobenzene, Lindane (gamma-HCH), Mercury compounds, including inorganic mercury compounds, alkyl mercury compounds and alkyloxyalkyl and aryl mercury compounds, Monocrotophos, Parathion, Pentachlorophenol and its salts and esters, Toxaphene (Camphechlor), Tributyl tin compounds, Dustable powder formulations containing a combination of benomyl at or above 7%, carbofuran at or above 10% and thiram at or above 15%, Methamidophos (Soluble liquid formulations of the substance that exceed 600 g active ingredient/l), Methyl-parathion (Emulsifiable concentrates (EC) at or above 19.5% active ingredient and dusts at or above 1.5% active ingredient), Phosphamidon (Soluble liquid formulations of the substance that exceed 1000 g active ingredient/l), Actinolite asbestos, Anthophyllite, Amosite asbestos, Crocidolite, Tremolite, Commercial octabromodiphenyl ether (including Hexabromodiphenyl ether and Heptabromodiphenyl ether), Commercial pentabromodiphenyl ether (including tetrabromodiphenyl ether and pentabromodiphenyl ether), Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, perfluorooctane sulfonates, perfluorooctane sulfonamides and perfluorooctane sulfonyls, Polybrominated Biphenyls (PBBs), Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), Polychlorinated Terphenyls (PCTs), Tetraethyl lead, Tetramethyl lead and Tris (2,3 dibromopropyl) phosphate.

The seventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention (RC COP-7) was held from 4th to 15th May, 2015 simultaneously with the twelfth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention (BC COP-12) and the seventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention (SC COP-7). The meetings included joint sessions among two or three of the conferences of the parties on joint issues. The theme for the meetings of the conferences of the parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions was ‘From science to action, working for a safer tomorrow’.

In many countries, there are general provisions that do not allow the use or importation of any chemical that is not registered or approved. India should adopt such provisions and consider applying them to white chrysotile asbestos.  

As usual the working language for the UN conference was Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. BANI demands that documents related to hazardous substances, whose exposure entails matters of life and death must be made available in Indian languages as well for greater public awareness, participation and action.

Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) is a collective of researchers and social workers working for environmental and occupational health justice in general and for elimination of asbestos of all kinds from trade and use. It is struggling for just compensation for victims of primary and secondary exposure, decontamination of asbestos laden buildings and products and advocating adoption of non-hazardous alternatives to killer fibers of asbestos. It isn’t structurally associated with the transnational alliances working for asbestos free world. It is involved in struggling for a safe working and living conditions for workers in the asbestos based industries, ship breaking industry, construction industry, defence industry and other businesses. BANI’s work is independent public interest research and advocacy work with grass root organizations for safeguarding health of present and future generations.

BANI demands strict implementation of occupational health surveillance scheme through pre employment health examination and periodic health examination in industries where is possibility of exposure to airborne asbestos. Such scheme for health surveillance must include exposure data at each pertinent work place, periodical examination of workers, X-ray examination for radiological changes, lung function test for restrictive disorder and clinical examination for early detection of signs of asbestosis. These tests must be recorded for pre-employment, periodic surveillance and at cessation of employment. Occupational health surveillance must be carried out by occupational physician or chest physician trained in occupational medicine. The occupational health surveillance program must be drawn for all the employees potentially exposed to asbestos dust and it is to be provided free of cost.

BANI demands maintenance and storage of medical records for period of 15 years following the termination of employment or for 40 years after first day of employment, whichever is later by employers, government agencies and workers organizations. The medical records must be maintained covering the details of pre-employment examination, the periodical medical examinations, medical examination done at other times, if any and the medical examinations conducted at cessation of employment and further follow-up examinations, where done.

BANI demands that individual employees’ occupational exposure profile to asbestos, specific work practices, and preventive measures including plan for management of asbestos related diseases prescribed must be recorded.

BANI will continue to work for the inclusion of white chrysotile asbestos in the UN list. Its efforts have led to inclusion of asbestos in the Inventory of Hazardous Chemicals Import in India and inclusion of Waste Asbestos (Dust and Fibers) in the list of Hazardous Wastes Prohibited for Import and Export under Schedule VI of Hazardous Wastes (Management, Handling and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2008 under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. Its efforts led to the finding that 16 % workers in the shipbreaking industry occupationally exposed to asbestos.

Notably, “Buying asbestos is buying akin to buying cancer. I will get asbestos removed from my residence. The ache of asbestos hazards is worse than the ache of unemployment” said Awadesh Narain Singh, Chairman, Bihar Legislative Council, in a speech available on www.youtube.com
The Report of Working Group on Occupational Safety and Health, Xth Five Year Plan, Planning Commission observed that the workers are also exposed to a host of hazardous substances, which have a potential to cause serious occupational diseases such as asbestosis. It revealed substantial prevalence of occupational health disorders amongst the workers such as Asbestosis. The prevalence rate for Asbestosis was reported to be 7.25%.
The Vision Statement of Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change recommends phase out of chrysotile asbestos saying, "Alternatives to asbestos may be used to the extent possible and use of asbestos may be phased out."

The Concept Paper of Union Ministry of Labour presented at Fifth India-EU Seminar states, “The Government of India is considering the ban the mining and use of chrysotile asbestos in India to protect the workers and the general population against primary and secondary exposure to Chrysotile form of Asbestos.”

Under Indian Factories Act, 1948, the List of 29 industries involving hazardous processes is given under Section 2 (cb), Schedule First, asbestos is mentioned at serial no. 24. The Act defines "hazardous process" as "any process or activity in relation to an industry specified in the First Schedule where, unless special care is taken, raw materials used therein or the intermediate or finished products, bye-products, wastes or effluents thereof would--(i) cause material impairment to the health of the persons engaged in or connected therewith, or (ii) result in the pollution of the general environment". This leaves no doubt that asbestos is a hazardous substance.

Irrespective of the outcome of the CoP 7 given the fact that domestic laws are intact, it is high time Prime Minister intervened to ensure that Union Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers and Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry are not overwhelmed by Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association, a so-called not for profit organization, involved in persuading government representatives to give priority to the profit of the indefensible asbestos industry and to undermine public health concerns of present and future generations.


For Details: Gopal Krishna, Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)-ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 08227816731, 09818089660, E-mail-1715krishna@gmail.com, Blog:banasbestosindia.blogspot.in Web: www.toxicswatch.org

Opposition to listing of white chrysotile asbestos in UN hazardous substances list untenable, unscientific, unsound, unsustainable, unacceptable and unpardonable

Prime Minister should ensure that Indian government officials do not get subordinated by asbestos industry at UN meet underway in Geneva

UN Meet on hazardous substances concludes on May 15 

Making India rife with asbestos related diseases, a sad legacy for Make in India slogan

Indian opposition to listing of white chrysotile asbestos in UN hazardous substances list would be contrary to its domestic laws and regulations 

May 14, 2015: ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) appeals to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure that Indian government officials do not get subordinated by representatives of Asbestos Cement Product Manufacturers Association (ACPMA), a cartel of some 18 companies and its international allies for the fifth time at the Seventh Conference of UN’s Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade (CoP-7) in deciding to get white chrysotile asbestos listed under UN list of hazardous substances. Contrary to the misinformation campaign and propaganda war unleashed by asbestos producing countries like Russia and Kazakhstan, mere listing of white asbestos chrysotile does not constitute a trade ban. Indian delegation should be directed to act with the knowledge that listing it under the Convention does not constitute a trade ban on white chrysotile asbestos.
Under the influence of white chrysotile asbestos producing countries like Russia, if India opposes listing of white chrysotile asbestos in UN list would be in blatant violation of its domestic laws and regulations like Factories Act, 1948. In short, if Government of India takes such position, it will be deemed untenable, unscientific, unsound, unsustainable, unacceptable and unpardonable for all times to come among the comity of nations and amidst own people. Indian delegation should pay heed to the resolutions and recommendations of World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) instead of allowing itself to be hijacked by accompanying members of ACPMA. It will be a shame if the Indian delegation betrays the cause of public health and national interest to safeguard the interest of the ACPMA.
Indian delegation should re-adopt its 2011 position on white chrysotile asbestos when Mira Mehrshi led the Indian delegation and resisted the influence and presence of asbestos industry lobby amidst standing ovation. It is hoped that Shashi Shekhar, the head of Hazardous Substances Management Division, MoEF, Government of India will restore India's prestige by re-adopting a scientifically and legally defensible position.  Shashi Shekhar who also heads the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)’s INVENTORY OF HAZARDOUS CHEMICALS IMPORT IN INDIA prepared by CPCB, under Union Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India that lists 'asbestos' at serial no. 26 as one of the 180 hazardous chemicals in international trade which is imported in India.
Under Factories Act, 1948, the List of 29 industries involving hazardous processes is given under Section 2 (cb), Schedule First, asbestos is mentioned at serial no. 24. The Act defines "hazardous process" as "any process or activity in relation to an industry specified in the First Schedule where, unless special care is taken, raw materials used therein or the intermediate or finished products, bye-products, wastes or effluents thereof would--(i) cause material impairment to the health of the persons engaged in or connected therewith, or (ii) result in the pollution of the general environment". This leaves no doubt that asbestos is a hazardous substance.
The Act is available at:
http://labour.nic.in/upload/uploadfiles/files/ActsandRules/Service_and_Employment/The%20Factories%20Act,%201948.pdf
A letter of B N Mehta, the then Chief Inspector of Factories, Gujarat State dated December 24th, 2002 submitted in the Hon'ble Supreme Court categorically reveals that two workers of Gujarat Composites Ltd were confirmed for Asbestosis, an incurable lung disease by National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH), Ahmedabad. The workers were (1) Shri Hazarilal Manraj and (2) Shri Sahejram B Yadav. The letter recommended compensation of Rs 1 lakh as per the Hon'ble Court's order but till date the same has not been given. This establishes the hazardous nature of asbestos. The letter is available at https://twitter.com/krishna1715/status/503824823747751936
It must be recalled that on June 22, 2011 Indian delegation led by Ms. Mira Mehrishi, Additional Secretary, had supported the listing ofChrysotile asbestos as a hazardous chemical substance at the fifth conference on Rotterdam Convention (COP-5) amidst standing ovation. Not surprisingly, Mira Mehrishi’s reputation remains impeccable with unblemished track record.
For a government which has adopted the slogan of “Make in India”, endorsement of asbestos like products would be a glaring taint because it ends up making India with the blood money of white chrysotile asbestos manufacturers. It will tarnish its image by end up making India rife with asbestos related diseases, a sad legacy for slogan Make in India.    
It tantamounts to sacrificing public health in order to support the ideology of naked lust for profit espoused by unscrupulous white chrysotile asbestos companies at any human cost. In effect, India would be seen taking an irrational position arguing that it does not wish to be informed about the hazardous nature of substances it imports and does not wish to inform about it to the countries which export asbestos based goods from India. This also means that India is becoming complicit in the violation of human rights by knowingly doing business in hazardous substances like white chrysotile asbestos as per its own law. 
It is hoped even at this late stage that India will disassociate itself from the influence of white chrysotile asbestos producing companies and countries after examining the finding of the Contact Group set up by the President of the Conference of the Parties to achieve a consensus to list while chrysotile asbestos in the UN’s Prior Informed Consent (PIC) list-Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention. Chemical Review Committee (CRC) of the Convention has recommended its listing in view of compelling scientific and medical evidence.
It is noteworthy that when the attached joint letter dated May 3, 2015 was sent to Prakash Javdekar, Union Minister of Environment, Forests & Climate Change and Ananth Kumar, Union Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers, the former responded with alacrity and put his acknowledgement of reasons for disassociating with asbestos producing countries like Russia on record. The fact remains Union Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers did not respond although Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers is the Focal Point for Rotterdam Convention. It is also a fact that Indian delegation was misled in 2013 by an irrelevant and conflict of interest ridden note of this very Ministry. Notably, Indian delegation was joined by supporters of asbestos industry in 2013. It is quite apparent that the industry representatives overwhelmed the government representatives who were made to take position against human health and the environment and to put profit of the asbestos industry before gnawing public health concerns.
When ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) had confronted MoEF with domestic laws in 2013, the officials from MoEF expressed helplessness as they were bound by the attached note of the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers. Hopefully, the structural compulsions of inter-ministerial coordination will be overcome this time to outwit the designs of ACPMA to subjugate the Indian delegation to its whims in fancies.
Notably, India's National Human Rights Commission is deeply concerned about the issue and is seized with case dealing with deaths and diseases caused by exposure asbestos fibers.
Indian history remembers such examples of notorious, timid, weak, pliable, gullible and docile individuals with unfailing memory.  It’s a conflict between truth and profit.  A poison is a poison. A hazardous substance will remain a hazardous substance irrespective the outcome of the UN meeting that concludes on May 15, 2015 but the Indian delegation will stand exposed for compromising India’s stature and its scientific reputation.

White chrysotile asbestos is banned in over 50 countries because it’s safe and controlled use is impossible. In countries like India there is almost no health infrastructure to even diagnose the incurable diseases caused by exposure to its fibers. There is lack of lab facilities which can detect its presence in buildings and products in a situation where there is not a single building India which can claim to be asbestos free. It’s listing in the UN list merely a preliminary preventive step.


For Details: Gopal Krishna, Ban Asbestos Network of India-ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 08227816731, 09818089660, E-mail-1715krishna@gmail.com, Web: www.toxicswatch.org

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

UN Special Rapporteur troubled by "obstacles to the listing of asbestos and paraquat under the Rotterdam Convention"



India should support listing of both the chemicals in UN list  
May 6, 2015: In a statement addressed to the Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, UN Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, Baskut Tuncak expressed his dismay at "the erection of obstacles to the listing of asbestos and paraquat under the Rotterdam Convention during previous Conferences of the Parties."
Asbestos producers like Russia & Kazakhstan are opposing listing of white chrysotile asbestos under UN list of hazardous substances (Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention). World Health Organization (WHO) and International Labour Organization (ILO) have underlined the hazardous nature of this substance. White chrysotile asbestos is banned in over 50 countries because its safe and controlled use is impossible.
In countries like India there is almost no health infrastructure to even diagnose the incurable diseases caused by exposure to its fibers. There is lack of lab facilities which can detect its presence in buildings and products in a situation where there is not a single building India which can claim to be asbestos free. Its listing in the UN list merely a preliminary preventive step. India should re-adopt its 2011 position on white chrysotile asbestos when Mira Mehrshi led the Indian delegation and resisted the influence and presence of asbestos industry lobby amidst standing ovation. It is hoped that Shashi Shekhar, the head of Hazardous Substances Management Division, Government of India will restore India's prestige by re-adopting a scientifically and legally defensible position.       
Notably, India's National Human Rights Commission is deeply concerned about the issue and is seized with case dealing with deaths and diseases caused by exposure asbestos fibers.    
As to the listing of of Paraquat, as a severely hazardous pesticide formulation in Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention, Guatemala and India blocked its listing at the last Conference of Parties in 2013. This substance herbicide is prohibited in more than 40 countries including the home country of Syngenta, the main manufacturer. A teaspoon of paraquat is enough to kill a person and there is no antidote. Farmers suffer from skin burns, blindness, and respiratory damage as a result of using paraquat. India should resist lobbying by business interests to protect public health.
Tuncak concluded saying, "It is both legally and morally unjustifiable for countries to continue to obstruct the listing of asbestos and paraquat under the Rotterdam Convention and derogates from their obligation to realize the right to access information.
I encourage all Parties to protect and respect human rights by listing asbestos, paraquat and other chemicals proposed for listing under the Rotterdam Convention."  
Chemical Review Committee (CRC) of the Rotterdam Convention has recommended their listing in the UN list.There is compelling scientific and medical evidence for India to support the listing of both these substances in the list of hazardous substances.
For Details: Gopal Krishna, Ban Asbestos Network of India-ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 08227816731, 09818089660, E-mail-1715krishna@gmail.com, Web: www.toxicswatch.orgFor Details: Gopal Krishna, Ban Asbestos Network of India-ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 08227816731, 09818089660, E-mail-1715krishna@gmail.com, Web: www.toxicswatch.org

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Asbestos producers unleash propaganda war against WHO, ILO and Rotterdam Convention Secretariat




Russia & Kazakhstan opposing listing of white chrysotile asbestos under UN list of hazardous substances as if it constitutes ban

Joint session of three UN Conference of Parties (COP) of Basel Convention’s 12th COP, 
 Rotterdam Convention’s 7th COP and Stockholm Convention’s 7th COP is underway in Geneva

India should ratify Ban Amendment to stop hazardous waste & end-of-life ships dumping

May 5, 2015: While white chrysotile asbestos is on the agenda of UN’s Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade for the fifth time, Russia & Kazakhstan are behaving as if mere listing of white asbestos chrysotile under UN list of hazardous substances constitute a trade ban. They are disregarding the fact that listing a chemical under the Convention does not constitute a trade ban on white chrysotile asbestos.
In an unprecedented tactical move, both these countries attacked World Health Organization (WHO) and International Labour Organization (ILO) which has passed resolutions seeking elimination of all kinds of asbestos is manifestly irrelevant. They also attacked the Secretariat of Rotterdam Convention. It is evidently an exercise by asbestos producers to create an impression that listing of white chrysotile asbestos is the same as banning it. It is clearly a part their deliberate propaganda war to get the decision on its listing postponed once again.
In this conflict between naked lust for profit which asbestos producers represent and the truth about public health concerns of the present and future generations, it remains to be seen which one will succeed. The position paper on Rotterdam Convention Alliance is attached.         
Earlier, the joint session of the three Conference of Parties (COP) of Basel Convention’s 12th COP, Rotterdam Convention’s 7th COP and Stockholm Convention’s 7th COP (BRS) adopted agendas and discussed work related to waste containing persistent organic pollutants (POPs) at its commencement on, 4th May 2015. The theme of COPs is “from science to action, working for a safer tomorrow.”
The issue of ratification of the Ban Amendment which was adopted at the Second Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention (COP2), 25th March, 1994 in Geneva, remains on the horizon. The Basel Ban decision effectively banned as of 1st January, 1998, all forms of hazardous waste exports from the 29 wealthiest most industrialized countries of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to all non-OECD countries like India. Since 2013 countries which have ratified include Côte d’Ivoire, Benin, Colombia, Guatemala, Republic of Congo and Peru. It was stated that 12 more instruments of ratification are required for the Ban Amendment to enter into force. India is a signatory to Basel Convention on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal but it is yet to ratify Ban Amendment. ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) urges the government to ratify it at the earliest to deal with the menace of dumping of hazardous wastes and end-of-life ships in Indian waters. In order for the amendment to enter the force of law it will need to be ratified by 62 of the Basel Parties. India should resist the influence of USA, Australia, Canada and such industrial lobby groups as the United States Chamber of Commerce, and the International Chamber of Commerce who are against the Amendment.
A contact group has been established and convened for technical guidelines, to begin consideration of POPs waste guidelines. It deliberated on the low-POPs content values for several POPs, guidance for Environmentally Sound Management and the precautionary principle.
Jagusiewicz, Basel Convention President, Khashashneh, Rotterdam Convention President and Lissinger Peitz, Stockholm Convention President declared their respective meetings open and introduced their respective agendas which were all adopted without amendment. Jagusiewicz is also the President of joint session who will speak on behalf of all the Presidents of the three Conventions.
The listing chemicals under the Rotterdam Convention, adoption of Basel Convention Technical Guidelines on electrical and electronic waste and agreement on compliance mechanisms for the Conventions are expected to be significant results at the end of the joint session on 15th May.
The current chemical consumption pattern has already crossed the carrying capacity of natural capital but adopting Ostrich policy, it was opined that it is yet to cross the limit of its carrying capacity.
For Details: Gopal Krishna, Ban Asbestos Network of India-ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 08227816731, 09818089660, E-mail-1715krishna@gmail.com, Web: www.toxicswatch.org

Monday, May 4, 2015

Indian Environment Minister takes note of reasons for India disassociating itself from Russia & other white chrysotile asbestos producers at UN Meet in Geneva

Seventh Conference of Parties (CoP 7) of UN's Rotterdam Convention commences in Geneva from May 4

May 4, 2015: In a remarkable move India's Minister of Environment Forests & Climate Change ( MoEFCC), Prakash Javadekar has communicated on May 4 that he has "noted", the contents of the letter addressed to him in the context of Seventh Conference of Parties (CoP 7) of UN's Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade  ahead of the commencement of CoP 7 in Geneva.In the letter it has been argued as to why India must disassociate itself from Russia & other white chrysotile asbestos producers at CoP 7 in Geneva. The letter from ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) dated May 3, 2015 is attached and pasted below. CoP is underway in Switzerland from 4th May to 15th May 2015. 

The minister has communicated the same to Shri Shashi Shekhar, Special Secretary, Chairman, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Union Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change who responsible for Hazardous Substances Management Division and international negotiations in the ministry. The minister's response within hours of having received the letter underlines the seriousness with which he is involved in the matter.     

The text of the Rotterdam Convention was adopted by the Conference of the Plenipotentiaries (Rotterdam, 10 September 1998). The text was subsequently amended by the First Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (Geneva, 20 - 24 September 2004), the Fourth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (Rome, 27 – 31 October 2008), the Fifth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (Geneva, 20 - 24 June 2011) and the Sixth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (Geneva, 28 April – 10 May 2013).  There are 72 Signatories and 154 Parties to the Convention. India gave its consent for Accession to the Convention on 24th May, 2005.  

To achieve its objectives the Convention includes two key provisions, namely the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure and Information Exchange. The PIC procedure is a mechanism for formally obtaining and disseminating the decisions of importing Parties as to whether they wish to receive future shipments of those chemicals listed in Annex III of the Convention and for ensuring compliance with these decisions by exporting Parties. The Convention facilitates information exchange among Parties for a very broad range of potentially hazardous chemicals. The Convention requires each Party to notify the Secretariat when taking a domestic regulatory action to ban or severely restrict a chemical.

The Conference of the Parties oversees the operation of the Convention and makes decisions regarding amendments to the Convention, including the addition of chemicals to Annex III.  

The purpose of the Convention is to promote responsible trade. Indian delegation should be advised to:
•       to support responsible trade
•        to support the recommendation of the Convention's scientific committee (the Chemical Review Committee) to list chrysotile asbestos
•       to support the purpose of the Convention, which is to provide the right to Prior Informed Consent, based on the recommendations of the Convention's scientific committee

The Chemical Review Committee is a subsidiary body of the COP. Its members are government designated experts in chemicals management. Its responsibilities include reviewing notifications and proposals from Parties, and making recommendations to the COP on the addition of chemicals to Annex III.

The Convention is based on a process under which the Chemical Review Committee examines the evidence before recommending whether a substance should be put on the Convention's list of hazardous substances. Some countries like Russia who are promoting transfer of harm to countries like ours due to their incestuous relationship with the asbestos industry are rejecting the scientific process and refusing to act as per the recommendation of the scientific committee in the matter of white chrysotile asbestos.

Taking cognisance of Hon'ble Supreme Court’s judgment dated 27th January, 1995, the Ministry of Environment of Forests came out with its 19 page long Vision Statement on Environment and Human Health (Para 4.3.1) wherein it is stated: “Alternatives to asbestos may be used to the extent possible and use of asbestos may be phased out” on page no. 12 This is available on its website. Source:
moef.nic.in/divisions/cpoll/envhealth/visenvhealth.pdf.
In a concept paper Union Ministry of Labour disclosed at the two-day 5th India-EU Joint Seminar on “Occupational Safety and Health” on 19-20th September, 2011 that "The Government of India is
considering the ban on use of chrysotile asbestos in India to protect the workers and the general population against primary and secondary exposure to Chrysotile form of Asbestos." It has noted that "Asbestosis is yet another occupational disease of the Lungs which is on an increase under similar circumstances warranting concerted efforts of all stake holders to evolve strategies to curb this menace". The document is readily available at http://www.labour.nic.in/lc/Background%20note.pdf)

In a notice dated December 24, 2014, Hon’ble National Human Rights Commission has asked the Ministry of Labour regarding steps taken in pursuance of its concept paper.

Notably, US Environment Protection Agency says, “No safe exposure threshold (with respect to for inhaling asbestos fibers) has been established, but the risk of disease generally increases with
the length and amount of exposure.”
Source :http://yosemite.epa.gov/R10/OWCM.NSF/0/1892d33bca669504882566d700671e50?OpenDocument
The same is reiterated by World Health Organization (WHO) at
http://whqlibdoc.who.int/hq/2006/WHO_SDE_OEH_06.03_eng.pdf

It is noteworthy that in a recent inter-ministerial meeting held last month, MoEFCC took a position which was quite sensitive to enviro-occupational health in the matter of hazardous ship breaking industry. The migrant workers in this industry are admittedly exposed to hazardous and carcinogenic substances like asbestos fibers. In the light of these reasons, there is a compelling logic for MoEFCC to disassociate itself from Russia.
 
For Details: Gopal Krishna, Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)- ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 08227816731, 09818089660
E-mail-1715krishna@gmail.comBlog:banasbestosindia.blogspot.in
Web: www.toxicswatch.org, Website of Rotterdam Convention Secretariat:  http://www.pic.int/ 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Why India must disassociate itself from Russia & other white chrysotile asbestos producers at CoP 7 of Rotterdam Convention

ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
To

Shri Ananth Kumar
Union Minister of Chemicals & Fertilizers
Government of India
New Delhi

Shri Prakash Javadekar,
Union Minister of State for Environment
Forests & Climate Change
Government of India
New Delhi

May 3, 2015

Subject- Why India must disassociate itself from Russia & other white chrysotile asbestos producers at CoP 7 of Rotterdam Convention in Geneva during May 2015

Sir,

With reference to the Seventh Conference of Parties of the Rotterdam Convention in Geneva, Switzerland from 4th May to 15th May 2015 and my earlier letter dated 25th March 2015, I submit that Hon'ble Supreme Court has examined the carcinogenicity of “ASBESTOS (mesothelioma and lung cancer)” in the Consumer Education & Research Centre Vs Union Of India & Others case in its landmark verdict dated 27th January, 1995.
I submit that this verdict established Right to Health as part of Right to Life. This judgment is quite relevant for hazardous industries in general and asbestos industry in particular in the 30th year of Bhopal disaster. It is noteworthy that Union Carbide Corporation was also in the business of asbestos whose liabilities has been inherited by Dow Chemicals Company making it set up a $ 2.2 billion compensation fund for the victims of asbestos related diseases in USA.  
I submit that the purpose of the Convention is to promote responsible trade. Indian delegation should be advised to:
·         to support responsible trade
·          to support the recommendation of the Convention's scientific committee (the Chemical Review Committee) to list chrysotile asbestos
·         to support the purpose of the Convention, which is to provide the right to Prior Informed Consent, based on the recommendations of the Convention's scientific committee
I submit that the Convention is based on a process under which the Chemical Review Committee examines the evidence before recommending whether a substance should be put on the Convention's list of hazardous substances. Some countries like Russia who are promoting transfer of harm to countries like ours due to their incestuous relationship with the asbestos industry are rejecting the scientific process and refusing to act as per the recommendation of the scientific committee in the matter of white chrysotile asbestos.
I wish to inform you that European Union (EU) might be sponsoring asbestos industry and government stakeholders to take part in this conference that is to decide on listing of white chrysotile asbestos in the list of hazardous substances. It is quite bizarre given the fact that all the 27 countries of European Union have banned asbestos of all kinds. Indian delegation should be made wary of their presence and influence and actively resist them instead of succumbing to their temptations and persuasions. EU hosted the asbestos industry representatives during March 30 and 31, 2015 at the Technical Workshop on Chrysotile Asbestos which was organized by the Rotterdam Convention Secretariat. Indian delegation should be wary of Secretariat attempting to pander to the whims and fancies of asbestos producing countries like Russia, China, Brazil, Kazakhstan and others. In 2013, Russia produced 1,050,000 tonnes, China produced 420,000 tonnes, Brazil produced 307,000 tonnes and Kazakhstan produced 242,000 tonnes of asbestos. India consumed 303,000 tonnes of asbestos in 2013 although asbestos consumption dropped by 39% in 2013 but still it remains a big consumer. Such rate of consumption increases burden of incurable lung diseases.
I submit that on December 27th, 2012 a new "List of recommended substitutes for toxic and hazardous raw materials" was officially published by China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. Asbestos was included in category 3, the most advanced class for which substitutes have been developed and are being used. In the document, asbestos was categorized as a toxic and hazardous substance which could be replaced by safer alternatives. India’s Ministry of Environment & Forests has announced similar action but follow up action is yet to be taken.   
The fact is that mining of asbestos of all kinds, trade in asbestos waste (dust & fibers) is banned in India. In June 1993, central government stopped the renewal of existing mining leases of asbestos.  The mining activity was banned by Union Ministry of Mines.  It is strange that while mining of asbestos is banned in our country due to adverse health impact, the same is being imported from Russia and other countries.
I submit that Terms of Reference (ToR) of Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) which is given to asbestos companies by Experts Appraisal Committee (EAC)-Industry, Union Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change, makes explicit reference to “Health Management Plan for Mesothelioma, Lung cancer and Asbestosis related problems in asbestos industries.” Evidently, “The raw material asbestos used in the plant is hazardous in nature.” Source: Gujarat Pollution Control Board, http://gpcb.gov.in/pdf/Ramco_Ind_Ltd_EIA_Report.pdf)
I submit that a letter of Shri B N Mehta, the then Chief Inspector of Factories, Gujarat State dated December 24th, 2002 submitted in the Hon’ble Supreme Court categorically reveals that two workers of Gujarat Composites Ltd were confirmed for Asbestosis, an incurable lung disease by National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH), Ahmedabad. The workers were (1) Shri Hazarilal Manraj and (2) Shri Sahejram B Yadav. The letter recommended compensation of Rs 1 lakh as per the Hon’ble Court’s order but till date the same has not been given. The letter is available at https://twitter.com/krishna1715/status/503824823747751936 This and many such cases conclusively establish the hazards from asbestos. Influence of the asbestos industry becomes quite obvious when Government turns a blind eye to such glaring official facts. This is also a clear case of contempt of court by the asbestos based company. It may be noted that Gujarat Composite Ltd (formerly named Digvijay Cement Company) is refusing to pay and appears to be attempting to hide behind myriad corporate veils by changing names and by outsourcing its work. This is what the industry has done in more than 50 countries but failed to avoid the inevitability of ban on all kinds of asbestos including white chrysotile asbestos. NIOH had also found in a study submitted in the Hon’ble Court that 16 % of the migrant workers involved the ship breaking industrial activity were exposed asbestos but none of the workers have been compensated till date.  
I submit that Indian delegation’s position with regard to asbestos must be made consistent to Indian laws in practice. Asbestos is listed as a hazardous substance under Part II of Schedule-I of the Manufacture, Storage and import of Hazardous Chemical Rules, 1989 under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 provides the List of Hazardous and Toxic Chemicals. This list has 429 chemicals, asbestos is at the serial no. 28 in the list. This Rule and the list is available on the website of Union Ministry of Environment & Forests.
I submit that INVENTORY OF HAZARDOUS CHEMICALS IMPORT IN INDIA prepared by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), under Union Ministry of Environment & Forests, Govt. of India prepared in September, 2008 with a foreword September 24, 2008 by Shri J. M. Mauskar, the then Chairman, CPCB and Additional Secretary, Union Ministry of Environment & Forests lists ‘asbestos’ at serial no. 26 as one of the 180 hazardous chemicals in international trade which is imported in India. This was done pursue of Government of India’s “Manufacture, Storage, and Import of Hazardous Chemicals (MSIHC) Rules, 1989” under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. According to these Rules, any person responsible for importing hazardous chemicals in India is to provide the data of import to the concerned authorities, as identified in Column 2 of Schedule 5 to the Rules. The CPCB “has been identified as one of such Authorities. In order to study the inventory of Hazardous Chemicals being imported by various categories of industrial units in India, the data provided by these industrial units to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) have been compiled.” It is scandalous as to why did the Indian delegation took a position inconsistent with the Manufacture, Storage, and Import of Hazardous Chemicals (MSIHC) Rules, 1989.
I submit that under Factories Act, 1948, the List of 29 industries involving hazardous processes is given under Section 2 (cb), Schedule First, asbestos is mentioned at serial no. 24. The Act defines "hazardous process" as “any process or activity in relation to an industry specified in the First Schedule where, unless special care is taken, raw materials used therein or the intermediate or finished products, bye-products, wastes or effluents thereof would—(i) cause material impairment to the health of the persons engaged in or connected therewith, or (ii) result in the pollution of the general environment”. This leaves no doubt that asbestos is a hazardous substance.
The Act is available at:http://labour.nic.in/upload/uploadfiles/files/ActsandRules/Service_and_Employment/The%20Factories%20Act,%201948.pdf
I submit that the Indian delegation was joined by supporters of asbestos industry in 2013. It is quite apparent that the industry representatives overwhelmed the government representatives who were made to take position against human health and the environment and to put profit of the asbestos industry before gnawing public health concerns.
I submit that on June 22, 2011 Indian delegation led by Ms. Mira Mehrishi, Additional Secretary, had supported the listing of Chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous chemical substance at the fifth meeting on Rotterdam Convention amidst standing ovation.
I submit that TWA had taken the opportunity of congratulating the government but government’s about turn in 2013 was a sad let down. I have learnt from officials and scientists who go to such meetings that they feel humiliated when the industry representatives give them directions instead of the senior government officials or ministers. The UN meet on hazardous chemicals creates a rationale for insulating government officials from undue and motivated industry influence else they will be obliged to act like caged parrots. The role of Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) in such matters must factor in far reaching implications for public health before defending the indefensible hazardous asbestos industry. The day is not far when members of CCEA too will be held liable for their acts of omission and commission as is happening in more than 50 countries that have banned all kinds of asbestos.
It must the noted that EIAs prepared by asbestos industry routinely admit that “Asbestos fiber will be used in the plant as a raw material is hazardous in nature, the industry will give information to the workers on hazards associated with asbestos”. This text is from the EIA report prepared for a proposed asbestos based plant by Utkal Asbestos Limited (UAL) in Kanhauli Dhanraj Panchayat of Goraul block, Vaishali district in Bihar. This EIA report like similar other report admitted that asbestos factory's "Construction site has a potential hazardous environment." EIA report of UAL has stated that its construction environment is hazardous.
It is significant because Shri Arun Kumar Saraf, Chairman, UAL Industries Ltd, Kolkata, India will be attending the Rotterdam Convention's conference in Geneva from May 4th, 2015 to prevent white chrysotile asbestos from being put on the UN list of hazardous substances.
I submit that Dr S P Vivek Chandra Rao, Advisor, Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association visited the office of Sub Divisional Officer (SDO), Mahuwa, Vaishali, Bihar on September 28, 2012 to represent UAL’s interest in the face of bitter opposition to its proposed white asbestos based plant in Kanhauli Dhanraj Panchayat of Goraul block from villagers.  Dr Rao attempted to defend the proposal of asbestos based factory but failed. Vindicating villagers’ protest Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPSCB) cancelled the No Objection Certificate granted to UAL and established the hazardous nature of asbestos based factories. Through an order dated December 26, 2013, BSPCB refused to extend the Consent to Establish (NOC) given to West Bengal based Utkal Asbestos Limited (UAL)'s proposed asbestos based plant in Vaishali overruling the recommendations of a Committee of Central Pollution Control Board. This has led to cancellation of the proposed asbestos factory.  Notably, Shri Vivek Chandra Rao Sripalle, Director, Safety, Health and Environment Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers’ Association will be attending the Rotterdam Convention's conference in Geneva from May 4th, 2015. The case of stoppage of proposed asbestos factory of UAL in Vaishali, Bihar demonstrates that people are against such plants.  
I submit that Shri Manohar Lal, Director General, Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers’ Association (ACPMA) who will be attending the Rotterdam Convention's conference in Geneva from May 4th, 2015. It may be noted that he Competition Commission of India (CCI) has said that various factors including high concentration in the market, product homogeneity and “active association of manufacturers” led to the decision of investigating anti-competitive practices in asbestos industry. CCI said in its newsletter. On its website ACPMA reveals, “The Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association (ACPMA) is a non-profit organization and is registered with the Registrar of Societies under Indian Societies Act 1860. The Association was formed in 1985 with an objective to aid, stimulate and advise promotion of Chrysotile Asbestos Cement Products (Sheets and Pipes) in India. ACPMA is affiliated to International Chrysotile Association, (ICA), USA. ICA is an international body formed by various country Associations and has a membership of 23 countries prominent being Canada, Brazil, China, Russia, Mexico amongst others. ICA actively represents the interest of Chrysotile Industry world over…”
The website admits, “ACPMA regularly receives from ICA latest information on various technical, scientific and health related issues connected with the safe use of Chrysotile. All such information is disseminated amongst Members and others connected with the Industry including Govt. regulatory bodies.” The website refers to its membership stating, “ACPMA currently has 15 Members having 51 manufacturing units located in various States providing direct and indirect employment to approximately 300,000 (Three Lakh) persons and having a gross annual turnover of approx Rs.4500/- crores.” It refers to a URL saying, “To view the list of members alongwith their office address”. The URL shows 18 members instead of 15. These are A INFRASTRUCTURE LTD, ASSAM ROOFING LTD, EVEREST INDUSTRIES LTD, HYDERABAD IND. LTD, JAIPRAKASH ASSOCIATES LTD, SAHYADRI INDUSTRIES LTD, RAMCO INDUSTRIES LTD, TAMILNADU CEMENTS CORPN. LTD, U P ASBESTOS LTD, UAL INDUSTRIES LTD, ‘KONARK MANI UDAY’, VISAKA INDUSTRIES LTD, STURDY INDUSTRIES LTD, VILSON ROOFING PRODUCTS PVT.LTD, NORTH EAST ROOFING LTD, ARL INFRATECH LTD, SRI VENKATESWARA PIPES LTD, ROOFIT INDUSTRIES LTD And MRK PIPES LTD.
I submit that the question which merits attention is how is it that these profit making companies when they become members of the Asbestos Cement Products Manufacturers Association (ACPMA) turn into “a non-profit organization and is registered with the Registrar of Societies under Indian Societies Act 1860”. Essentially, its claim of being a non-profit NGO is factually incorrect. This appears to be an act of fraudulent representation.
I submit that instead of letting ACPMA undertake the exercise of defending the profit making enterprises of these hazardous asbestos based companies, concerned ministries must consider asking each of these companies to file submissions about the environmental and occupational health status of the workers in their factories and the health records of the workers who have retired in compliance with the Hon’ble Supreme Court order of 1995.
It is noteworthy that Shri Manish Sanghi, Vice Chairman, Everest Industries Ltd, New Delhi, which also a member of ACPMA represents Asbestos Information Centre, which has been spearheading a misinformation to mislead the government with regard to hazardous and carcinogenic nature of asbestos.  

I submit that officially as of February 2010 the number workers employed in asbestos industry in different seem to show that their numbers have not been fully disclosed. Andhra Pradesh has seven factories employing 1389 workers. Assam has two units employing 45 workers. Delhi has six units having 231 workers. Gujarat has 13 units with 739 workers. Haryana has 19 units with 1300 workers. Jharkhand has two units with 153 workers. Karnataka has two units with 370 workers.  Kerala has one unit with 200 workers. Madhya Pradesh has 11 units with 610 workers. Odisha has one unit with 477 workers. Rajasthan has five units 61 workers. Tamil Nadu has 1677 workers. Uttar Pradesh has 11 units with 711 workers. West Bengal has nine units with 1200 workers. Maharashtra has 24 units with 1338 workers. It has come to light in 2015 that Bihar has 78 asbestos workers in Bihiya, Bhojpur district. I take the opportunity to challenge the ACPMA to make the health reports of all these workers employed in the factories to demonstrate the truth hazardous and carcinogenic nature of asbestos based factories.    

I submit that documents unearthed under the Right to Information Act revealed how white chrysotile asbestos industry added Rs. 16 lakh to the government’s Rs. 44 lakh for a study titled ‘Implementation of Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent Procedures — Study of Health Hazards/Environment Hazards Resulting from the Use of Chrysotile Variety of Asbestos in the Country’ by National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH), Ahemdabad to “specifically indicate how technology has made working conditions [in asbestos factories] better.” The minutes of the Review Committee for the NIOH study obtained through the RTI application dated December 19, 2006, read: “The report will be finalised after due discussions with the asbestos industry.” Another meeting minutes, dated April 18, 2007, report that “...the results of the study which was under way could not be shared [with public] till the same was finalised.” A letter dated April 24, 2006 from Under Secretary to the Government of India, Dept. of Chemicals and Petrochemicals, Union Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers to Director, NIOH: “the deliverables will include generation of data which would justify the safe standards of its usage as also the reasons/rationale justifying its non-inclusion/or otherwise in the PIC ambit…”. The attached releases from Press Information Bureau, Government of India reveal how government had to admit conflict of interest in both the Houses of Parliament.      

I submit that last time in 2013, India delegation relied on an irrelevant note of the Ministry of Chemicals prepared on the basis of an admittedly questionable study of NIOH study.  The Indian Council Medial Research Annual Report 2011-2012 reported the “Study of Hazards/Environmental Hazards resulting from use of Chrysotile variety of asbestos in the country (Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers, GOI)”  as having been done. The Director, NIOH had sent a revised proposal on June 22, 2005 to Under Secretary. Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, Government of India to conduct the study. 
I submit that a reply from Shri R N Jindal, Union Ministry of Environment & Forests based on Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals (DCPC)’s note dated June 18th, 2013 on the issue of Government of India’s position on hazardous substance chrysotile asbestos at the Sixth Conference of Parties of (CoP-6) of the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade held during April 28-May 10, 2013 in Switzerland.
The 7 page long note of the Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals (DCPC), Union Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers on the subject of Chrysotile Asbestos titled ‘Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals’ View on the use of Chrysotile Asbestos” in the country’ was shared with me by the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF). MoEF’s contention based DCPC’s note stating that “On the basis of the said note, the listing of Chrysotile Asbestos under Annex ‘A’ of Rotterdam Convention at CoP-6 during April 28th -May 10th 2013 at Geneva could not be supported” is misplaced.  

The note of the ‘line department’, i.e. Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals (DCPC), Union Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers on the subject chrysotile asbestos.   The note of the DCPC reveals that it has failed to understand the purpose of the Rotterdam Convention and ignorance about the objective of the Convention. The note is irrelevant from the point of view of the objective of the Convention for which it was prepared. While one disagrees with the findings of the conflict of interest ridden study conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Health, (NIOH), it is evident that even this study does not state that chrysotile asbestos is not a hazardous chemical. Had NIOH study concluded that Chrysotile Asbestos is not a hazardous chemical it may have become relevant. But even then it would have been legally unsustainable because under Indian laws chrysotile asbestos is a hazardous chemical.  

The concluding sentence of the DCPC’s note saying, “In view of the above, India may take a stand in the next CoP meeting of Rotterdam Convention for not inclusion of chrysotile asbestos in Annexure-III of Convention.  The flawed conclusion of the note titled ‘Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals’ View on the use of Chrysotile Asbestos” in the country’ is quite stark and will not stand scrutiny of logic and law.

I submit that Hon'ble Supreme Court has observed, “In man the link of lung cancer with asbestos has been mainly epidemiological. while asbestosis cannot occur without exposure to asbestos consequently every case of asbestosis must be linked with such exposure, with pulmonary cancer the situation is quite different. It is a rather common disease in the general population. The link with exposure to asbestos is based on finding whether in those exposed to asbestos is based on finding whether in those exposed  to asbestos bang cancer occurs more frequently than in those unexposed, i.e. whether in those exposed there is an excess incidence of lung cancers.”(1995 AIR 922, 1995 SCC (3) 42)
I submit that there is a The White Asbestos (Ban on Use and Import) Bill, 2014 pending in the 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….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. Hon’ble Court observed that “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 and took cognizance of the resolution of WHO and ILO seeking elimination of all forms of asbestos. ILO resolution is available at http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/relm/ilc/ilc95/pdf/pr-20.pdf
I submit that taking cognisance of Hon'ble Court’s judgment dated 27th January, 1995, when the Ministry of Environment of Forests came out with its 19 page long Vision Statement on Environment and Human Health (Para 4.3.1) it stated: “Alternatives to asbestos may be used to the extent possible and use of asbestos may be phased out” on page no. 12. This is available on its website. Source: moef.nic.in/divisions/cpoll/envhealth/visenvhealth.pdf.
I submit that in a concept paper Union Ministry of Labour disclosed at the two-day 5th India-EU Joint Seminar on “Occupational Safety and Health” on 19-20th September, 2011 that "The Government of India is considering the ban on use of chrysotile asbestos in India to protect the workers and the general population against primary and secondary exposure to Chrysotile form of Asbestos." It has noted that "Asbestosis is yet another occupational disease of the Lungs which is on an increase under similar circumstances warranting concerted efforts of all stake holders to evolve strategies to curb this menace". The document is readily available at http://www.labour.nic.in/lc/Background%20note.pdf)
I submit that in a notice dated December 24, 2014, Hon’ble National Human Rights Commission has asked the Ministry of Labour regarding steps taken in pursuance of its concept paper.
I wish to inform you that US Environment Protection Agency says, “No safe exposure threshold (with respect to for inhaling asbestos fibers) has been established, but the risk of disease generally increases with the length and amount of exposure.” 
 I wish to draw your attention towards a paper titled ‘Asbestos-An Important Public Health Hazard’ published for the National Convention of Chemistry Teachers and National Seminar on “Emerging Trends in Green Chemistry during October 15-17 2011. In the paper, it is stated that as early as “In 1935 first time, Lynch Smith described a lung carcinoma in a patient with asbestosis (fibrosis of the lung caused by the inhalation of asbestos dust). A large number of clinical, epidemiologic, and experimental studies established carcinogenic effect of different types of asbestos fibers on various tissues and organs, both in humans and in experimental animals. Inhalation is major source of exposure in humans.” It also noted that “its (asbestos) diffusion in the occupational and general environment causing a lot of health hazards even cancer.”  This event was recognized by International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as part of The International Year of Chemistry 2011.
Taking cognisance of threats to life and public health; as of April 2015 more than 50 countries have banned production, use, manufacture and trade of the hazardous mineral fiber, ASBESTOS. These countries are: Israel, Japan, France ,Nepal, Australia, Italy, Germany, South Africa,  Switzerland, South Korea, Denmark, Algeria, Czech Republic, Iceland, Malta, Serbia, Argentina, Ireland, Portugal , Mozambique, Seychelles, Egypt, Netherlands, Slovakia, Austria, Estonia, New Caledonia, Slovenia, Bahrain, Finland, Norway, Belgium, Poland, Sweden, Bulgaria, Uruguay, Chile,  Greece, Latvia,  Qatar, Turkey, Kuwait, Croatia, Honduras, Lithuania, Romania, Cyprus, Hungary, Luxembourg, Jordan, Oman, Brunei, Gabon,         Saudi Arabia, Spain and United Kingdom. Hong Kong’s Legislative Council has adopted the Air Pollution Control (Amendment) (No. 2) Ordinance 2013 on 22nd January, 2014 which bans the import, transhipment, supply and use of all forms of asbestos as of 4th April, 2014. In a related development Nepal has banned the import, sale, distribution and use of all asbestos on the grounds of public health on 22nd December, 2014. The prohibitions will come into effect on 20th June, 2015.
I submit that WHO says, “One in every three deaths from occupational cancer is estimated to be caused by asbestos. In addition, it is estimated that several thousand deaths annually can be attributed to exposure to asbestos in the home.” Source: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs343/en/index.html
 It is noteworthy that asbestos industry is one of the 64 heavily polluting industries under Red Category of Union Environment & Forests Ministry. In fact, commerce in asbestos waste (dust & fibers) is banned in India under Hazardous Waste Management Rules under Environment Protection Act, 1986.  
I submit that following Hon’ble Court’s order India has to adopt the fresh resolution of ILO seeking elimination of asbestos which has been endorsed by the Court. This has been reiterated by the Hon’ble Court in its judgment dated January 21, 2011. Government ought to be more sensitive to workers' health to disassociate itself from its sad legacy of being indifferent towards them. The ministry's vision statement does talk about environmental and occupational health at considerable length. It is about time it acted as per its own vision and concept paper.
I submit that if by the end of the deliberations, it becomes apparent that there will be no consensus on inclusion of white chrysotile asbestos in the Annexure III, Indian delegation should be advised to voluntarily declare its desire to get it included in the list. The decision in Geneva will illustrate whether or not any mafiosi of asbestos industry can hold hostage it hostage or not. It should consider seeking a moratorium on use of asbestos based construction materials in disaster affected areas. If this is not done it would amount to making profit over disaster affected persons a priority.    
Disregarding the regressive influence of asbestos producers like Russia, Indian government should act to make South Asian and the India-Brazil- South Africa (IBSA) region countries asbestos free. Notably, South Africa has already banned asbestos and several States in Brazil too have banned it. In India, States like Uttarkhand and Union Territory of Chandigarh has supported prohibitory action in writing. It has quite often been said that asbestos industry acts like tobacco industry in operating its propaganda machine. Government has done well to resist tobacco lobby, it should do the same in the matter of this lung cancer causing industry.         
In view of the above, I earnestly urge you stop objecting to the listing of chrysotile asbestos (white asbestos) as a dangerous material under the Rotterdam Convention on exports of hazardous materials, Government of India is under an ethical and logical obligation, backed by indisputable scientific and medical evidence to do so to protect the health of citizens, workers and their families of the present and future generations. Government of India must demonstrate that it will remain consistent with its domestic law and resist the century old tremendous influence of asbestos lobby at this UN conference.
 Thanking You
Yours faithfully
Gopal Krishnaa
Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
Mb: 08227816731, 09818089660
E-mail-1715krishna@gmail.com
Blog:banasbestosindia.blogspot.in
Web: www.toxicswatch.org

Cc
Cabinet Secretary, Government of India
Dr. S. Jaishankar, Foreign Secretary, Union Ministry of External Affairs
Shri Surjit Kumar Chaudhary, Secretary, Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals, Union Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers
Shri Ashok Lavasa, Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change
Secretary, Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare
Secretary, Department of Health Research, Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare
Secretary, Union Ministry of Labour
Shri Shashi Shekhar, Special Secretary, Chairman, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Union Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change
Shri A.J.V. Prasad, Joint Secretary (Chemicals), Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers
Shri Hansraj Gangaram,  Union Minister of State of Chemicals & Fertilizers
Permanent Mission, Government of India
Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment, Forests, Science & Technology Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health
Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Chemicals & Fertilizers
Chairman, Public Accounts Committee
Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Industry
Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce
Hon’ble Members of Parliament




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