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Indian Government Paves Way for Ban on Chrysotile Asbestos, terms it Hazardous Chemical

Written By Gopal Krishna on Thursday, June 23, 2011 | 6:20 AM



Press Release

Quebec & Canada Condemned for Support of Chrysotile Asbestos Industry at UN Meet

Indian Government Paves Way for Ban on Chrysotile Asbestos, terms it Hazardous Chemical

Rotterdam Alliance, Calls Canada, Cancer Culprit, a Pariah State
Is Bihar’s Deputy Chief Minister Listening?

New Delhi/Patna: Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) Condemns Quebec and Canadian Government’s anti-public health, anti-environment and anti-worker stance in the matter of list of Chrysotile Asbestos as a hazardous chemical. BANI appreciates Government of India for taking this long delayed step to join the international consensus against chrysotile asbestos. In a statement, Rotterdam Alliance states that the industry prefers that people are not given the information that chrysotile asbestos is hazardous.

Chrysotile (serpentine forms of asbestos) is being proposed to be included in the Prior Informed Consent (PIC)  procedure as an industrial chemical at the UN's fifth meeting of Rotterdam Convention on the PIC Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade in the conference. Its listing is based on the final regulatory actions to ban or severely restrict its use due to its impacts on health as notified by Australia, Chile and the European Union.

Amidst growing incessant demand for ban on trade, manufacture and use of chrysotile asbestos, Government of India’s delegation in Geneva, Switzerland announced that they had reconsidered their opposition and would support listing of chrysotile asbestos in the UN list of hazardous chemicals.

BANI, an alliance of public health researchers, human rights and labour groups welcome Government of India’s support the inclusion of Chrysotile (white) asbestos in Annex III (PIC list).
 
It is indeed a dramatic breakthrough that would pave the way for ending the deadlock over the inclusion of Chrysotile Asbestos in the PIC list and eventually for complete ban on the killer fibers. Approximately 50, 000 people die every year in India due to asbestos related cancer. But so far Government of India has failed to take a pro-people’s health position and a scientific stand on the import of chrysotile asbestos whose mining is technically banned in India.  

The Chemical Review Committee of the Rotterdam Convention has recommended inclusion of Chrysotile asbestos twice. It is now being considered for the third time. Under the negative influence of Canada and other chrysotile asbestos producing countries, Government of India has been blocking its inclusion citing industry sponsored studies since 2004. So far it has been according priority to the profit of chrysotile asbestos companies instead of protecting environmental and occupational health.

Indian delegation also agreed to chair a small group to continue discussions with opponents to listing about their specific concerns. Canada has confirmed that it would not join any consensus on listing chrysotile asbestos.

A small drafting group was formed to draft an accompanying decision to one listing chrysotile asbestos in Annex III, to request parties and all other stakeholders to promote information exchange on measures to minimize risks and on alternative substances in order to facilitate potential agreement. When the small drafting group announced no consensus had been reached on listing chrysotile asbestos, decision was deferred at least till the conclusion of the COP5 on 24th June. BANI hopes that the delegates at COP5 will be able to persuade Canada to change its position before the meeting concludes.

Under the theme “Rotterdam COP5: PICturing Chemical Safety, PICturing Informed Decisions”, the conference is considering measures to strengthen implementation of the globe’s first line of defence for chemical safety.

The Rotterdam Convention entered into force in 2004. It built on the voluntary Prior Informed Consent, or PIC, procedure, initiated by UNEP and FAO in 1989, which gave way to the formalities of the Convention. The Rotterdam Convention was adopted in 1998 and entered into force in 2004 and makes the PIC Procedure legally binding.

In order for COP5 to be deemed successful, it is very important that chrysotile asbestos is listed on Annex III of the convention. If that happens, "Prior Informed Consent" will become mandatory before chrysotile asbestos producing countries such as Canada and Russia can export this killer mineral fiber.

Environmental groups like BANI have been making incessant demand for the listing of Chrysotile Asbestos in UN List of Hazardous Chemicals List. India's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has admitted an application and registered a case with regard to the phase out of the chrysotile asbestos based industries and its listing as a hazardous chemical, a fact which has wrongly been disputed by Bihar’s Deputy Chief Minister, Sushil Kumar Modi. The UN Meet on Hazardous Chemicals vindicates BANI’s position which has been demanding closure of chrysotile asbestos based plants in Bhojpur, Vaisahali and Muzaffarpur.

Indian states like Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and others where new chrysotile asbestos based plants are proposed will now have to abandon their plans.

For Details: Gopal Krishna, Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI), Mb: 9818089660,
E-mail: krishna2777@gmail.com, Blog: banasbestosindia.blogspot.com,
Web: www.toxicswatch.com

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