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Letter to Mines Minister on incurable lung diseases caused by asbestos fibers

Written By Krishna on Thursday, December 06, 2012 | 9:45 AM



ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
To

Shri Dinsha Patel
Union Minister of Mines
Government of India
New Delhi

Date: November 26, 2012
Subject- Reply in the Lok Sabha on possible lifting of restriction on grant/renewal of mining leases of asbestos after finalisation of guidelines disregarding incurable lung diseases caused by asbestos fibers

Sir,

This is to draw your kind attention towards your reply in the Lok Sabha on 23-November-2012 regarding lifting of the ban on grant/renewal of mining leases of asbestos after the finalisation of guidelines unmindful of the asbestos related incurable occupational and non-occupational diseases caused by the exposure to its lung cancer causing fibers.
I was invited by your ministry to give my oral and written submissions wherein I had cited international and national legal precedents that are against the lifting of the technical ban on asbestos mining in India which was imposed on July 9, 1986 due to the adverse and irremediable health impact on health of the workers because safe and controlled use of asbestos is impossible as has been established by the attached WHO’s resolution 2005.  I wish to inform you that Rajasthan Government has withdrawn its request for lifting of ban on asbestos mining. It is apparent that asbestos miners lobby from Andhra Pradesh is exercising undue influence on the ministry in this regard. The ministry should resist the pressure from the asbestos miners of Andhra Pradesh in public interest.
I am attaching the Concept Paper dated September 2011 of Union Ministry of Labour, Government of India presented at the EU-India Seminar that reveals that the Central Government is planning to eliminate asbestos from the country due to health reasons.  It is available on Ministry's website. 
I am attaching the Vision Statement on Environment and Human Health of Union Environment ministry that recommends the phase out of asbestos. It is available on Ministry's website.
Besides these kindly do refer to paragraph 14, 15 and 16 of the attached Hon'ble Supreme Court's order dated January 21, 2012 to assess the response of International Labor Organization (ILO). The ILO's resolution of June 2006 which is mentioned in the Hon'ble Court's order attached as well for ready reference.  
In the light of the above referenced facts and the Concept Paper of Union Ministry of Labour, Vision Statement on Environment and Human Health of Union Environment ministry and NHRC notice in particular, I request you to consider Right to Health as part of Right to Life and desist from lifting the ban on grant/renewal of lease for asbestos mining. 
I submit that it is relevant for your Ministry to recollect the sad legacy of undivided Bihar, the unpardonable act of vanishing hazardous companies and the asbestos mines in places like Roro Hills in Chaibasa, West Singhbhum in Jharkhand. The death toll and the disease burden that has emerged due to this abandoned asbestos mine must be ascertained because it would provide valuable lessons in preventive medicine. The Roro hills is infamous for an abandoned asbestos mine.  It is estimated that nearly 0.7 million tons of asbestos waste mixed with chromite-bearing host rock lies scattered here and in 25 years no study has been conducted to assess the fate of this hazardous waste dumped improperly on top of Roro hills. The waste material extends several meters down slope spreading into the paddy fields on the foothills of Roro. About 40 centimeters of thick silty waste of crushed rocks is spread over the paddy fields and poisoning the local residents.
I submit that there is a need for an official health survey of 14 villages around the Roro hills and the former workers of the Roro asbestos mines. There is a link between the asbestos exposures and several adverse health effects such as shortness of breath indicating respiratory ailments.
I wish to inform you that local newspaper clippings from Singbhumi Ekta, a weekly from Chaibasa, published between January and August 1981, include a press release from the late P. Mazumdar, the leader of the United Mine Workers Union, affiliated to All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) states that 30 workers from Roro mines had died of asbestosis. You may ascertain the fate of ex-workers from the Roro mines from Roro and Tilaisud villages. The Roro mines were closed down in 1983 after Hyderabad Asbestos Cement Products Ltd. (now known as Hyderabad Industries Limited) decided that they were no longer profitable even at the cost of human health in general and workers health in particular.
I submit that the liability for asbestos related diseases remain a huge issue in the entire developed world leading to bankruptcy of hundreds of companies due to compensation money they have to pay to victims of asbestos related deaths and ailments. Dow Chemicals Company has set up a asbestos compensation fund of 2.2 BILLION US Dollars for the asbestos related liability of Union Carbide Corporation which is now its subsidiary in the aftermath of the Industrial Disaster of Bhopal.    
I wish to inform you that due to growing awareness about hazards of asbestos, villagers of Marwan Block in Muzaffarpur, Bihar have stopped the construction of a asbestos based cement plant. Following unprecedented resistance of the villagers of Marwan Block, the Chief Minister’s Secretariat ordered an inquiry into it in the backdrop of police firing and lathi charge. The plant has been closed now. Bihar State Human Rights Commission announced that the plant has been wound up.
I submit that Kerala State Human Rights Commission has banned use of asbestos roofs in schools, hospitals and public building and has held that exposing citizens to exposure of asbestos fibers and asbestos roofs is a violation of their human rights.
I submit that National Human Rights Commission has held that even inmates cannot be kept under asbestos roofs in the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
I submit that some 60 countries have banned asbestos of all kinds including Asian countries like Japan and South Korea. Human biology of people is same everywhere. Indian workers and consumers must be protected from exposure to carcinogenic fibers.     
It is germane to note that Terms of Reference (TOR) that was awarded by the Experts Appraisal Committee, Industrial Project, Union Ministry of Environment & Forests to the project proponents for white asbestos based factories state that they should prepare a “Health Management Plan for Mesothelioma, Lung cancer and Asbestosis related problems in asbestos industries.” Till date this has not been done with regard to asbestos mining, milling or manufacturing factories operating in the country. The Union Health Ministry has informed the Parliament that exposure to asbestos lead to incurable diseases like Mesothelioma, Lung cancer and Asbestosis.
In view of the above I urge you to take remedial measures for present and future generations can be taken to protect workers, their families and consumers from the epidemic of incurable but preventable asbestos related diseases. This is of seminal importance to prevent at least preventable diseases and deaths.
Thanking You
                                                                                                                                 Yours Sincerely
Gopal Krishna
Convener
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
Mb: 9818089660
Email:krishna1715@gmail.com
 
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