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India & Pakistan join hands against their citizens & workers

Written By Gopal Krishna on Friday, November 07, 2008 | 11:08 AM

Under the influence of Russia, Canada and asbestos companies, Indian and Pakistani governments compelled the UN conference in Rome on 28th October, 2008 to miss the opportunity to include chrysotile (white) asbestos in the UN hazardous chemicals trade watch list for the fourth time. Asbestos is a cancer causing fiber due to which 10, 000 people are dying every year in US and 4, 000 per year in UK. More than 50 countries including Europe, Japan, Australia have banned it.

Governments of India and Pakistan revealed how it is puts trade before human health in an act of manifest sophistry and insincerity.

Ban Asbestos Network of India and civil rights groups across the globe condemned such treacherous callousness in the face of incurable but preventable asbestos disease epidemic.

In a noteworthy but unpardonable collaboration between India and Pakistan both the countries decided to endanger the lives of their citizens, children, women and workers by betraying public interest for the benefit of Russia, Canada and asbestos companies.

Both the governments turned a blind eye towards the poisonous atmosphere around the asbestos factories and the dangers it poses to the health and life of citizens. This was being done just to pander to the industry's hunger for profit at human cost.

This came to light at the fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-4) of the UN's Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure (PIC) for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade during 27-31 October 2008.

Gopal Krishna

120 nations agree to add pesticide tributyltin in trade watch list

New York, Nov 4 Over 120 countries, party to the Rotterdam Convention, have agreed to add the pesticide tributyltin to a global trade "watch list", but were unable to reach a consensus on the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos and the pesticide endosulfan in the list.
The conference, during negotiations last week, reaffirmed that governments have an obligation to use the Convention's information-sharing mechanism to inform others about their national decisions on the import and management of hazardous chemicals.

"Trade comes with rights and responsibilities, and the discussions this week have shown the strong commitment of many countries to this spirit of reciprocity," said Bakary Kant, Director of the Division of Environmental Law and Conventions, United Nations Environment Program. UNEP, along with FAO, jointly manages the Convention secretariat.

The Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure for certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade promotes transparency and information sharing about potential risks to human health and the environment. Its so-called PIC list currently contains 39 hazardous substances, including all other forms of asbestos.

"International instruments such as the Rotterdam Convention are tools to assist countries in sound chemicals management; they are not an end in themselves but a means to an end," said James Butler, FAO Deputy Director-General at the opening of the high-level segment of the meeting.

Under the Convention, exports of chemicals and pesticides on the PIC list require the prior informed consent of the importing country. This gives developing countries in particular the power to decide which potentially hazardous chemicals they want to receive and to exclude those they cannot manage safely. (Agencies)

Row over hazardous pesticides at Rome Conference

New Delhi, Nov 2The Fourth Meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Rotterdam Convention at the FAO headquarters in Rome last week brought to the fore the row over placing two pesticides and the industrial chemical chrysotile asbestos on the trade watch list that already contains 39 hazardous substances.

The trade watch list, according to the convention, is not a recommendation for a ban on the product. The substances included in the list are subject to the prior informed consent (PIC), designed to make the exporting country responsible for ensuring that no exports leave its territory when an importing country has made the decision not to accept the chemicals.

The technical committee of experts had recommended endosulfan and tributyl tin compounds and industrial chemical chrysotile on the trade watch list. The Fourth Meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Rotterdam Convention, which began in Rome on October 27, took up the discussion on this issue. About five countries, including Canada, India and Ukraine, opposed the move to place these hazardous substances on the trade watch list at the convention of over 120 nations.

Tributyl tin (TBT) compounds are pesticides used in anti-fouling paints for ship hulls and are toxic to fish, molluscs and other aquatic organisms.

The International Maritime Organization has moved to ban the use of anti-fouling paints containing TBT compounds. Endosulfan is a pesticide widely used around the world, particularly in cotton production. It is hazardous to the environment and detrimental to human health, particularly in those developing countries where adequate safeguards do not exist.

Chrysotile asbestos is the most commonly used form of asbestos, accounting for around 94% of global asbestos production. It is widely used in building materials, such as asbestos cement, pipe and sheet, and in the manufacture of friction products, gaskets and paper.

"It is the highest form of hypocrisy for Canada to work behind the scenes with a handful of countries to prevent citizens of the majority of Rotterdam Convention members to be informed about the hazards of chrysotile asbestos, when we virtually no longer use it in Canada because it is so extremely hazardous", said Kathleen Ruff coordinator of the Rotterdam Convention Alliance (ROCA).

According to Ruff, Canada spends millions of dollars promoting the sale of chrysotile asbestos in poor countries. However, if it were the other way around, Canada would not accept it. Even now the Canadian government wishes to strictly control the import of hazardous chemicals into Canada.

Despite the years of credible work by the international scientific community and the rigorous work of all UN agencies, few countries opposing the move to place the three hazardous substances on the trade watch list distributed brochures at the Rotterdam Convention, entitled - "Chrysotile Asbestos Saves Lives". According to Professor Soskolne of the University of Alberta, "The data presented would never make it into a serious scientific journal, the methodologies are not transparent, and a lot of the information is false."

Some 70,000 chemicals are available in the global market and around 1,500 new ones are introduced every year. This can pose a major challenge to regulators charged with monitoring and managing these potentially dangerous substances.


The Financial Express
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