CPCB endorses Bihar Pollution Control Board (BSPCB)’s Guidelines against asbestos factories
BSPCB's cancellation of permission for asbestos based factory vindicated
Compensation fund needed for victims of asbestos related diseases
October 25, 2013: In contempt of Supreme Court’s judgement dated January 27, 1995, the MoEF continues to grant environmental clearance to asbestos based companies despite the fresh resolution of International Labour Organisation seeking elimination of asbestos which has been endorsed by the Court. This has been reiterated by the Court in its judgement dated January 21, 2011. While this is true in almost all the States, on October 28, 2013 Patna High Court is all set to examine the legality of environmental clearance given to such plants in Bihar.
In a report submitted to the Patna High Court, Committee of Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has endorsed the Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB)’s Guidelines against siting of hazardous industries like Utkal asbestos company. Unfortunately, the Committee has cited irrelevant paragraphs of the judgement dated January 21, 2011. Sadly, Committee of Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) is relying on the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report of Shiva Test House, Patna, the consultant of the project proponent, Utkal Asbestos Industries (UAL) instead of BSPCB's Guidelines or MoEF's ToR both of which underline the need for avoiding a hazardous asbestos factory if within a minimum distance of 500 meter there are habitations, state highway etc. Although the entire plant is a source of emission of lethal asbestos fibers that cause incurable cancer, the Committee of CPCB has done the measurement from just one point in an explicit case of bias. The Draft critique of the Committee of CPCB’s report is attached. The report was submitted on October 7, 2013.
The BSPCB’s Guidelines provide a battery limit of “a distance of minimum 500 meters from the National/State Highway, Railway line, river and human habitation” that outlaws setting up of asbestos based factories.
Citing this very Guidelines, BSPCB’s had issued an order dated April 16, 2013 cancelling the Consent to Establish-cum- No Objection Certificate (NOC) given to a asbestos based unit of Utkal Asbestos Limited (UAL) in Vaishali.
When defending the indefensible asbestos factory becomes a compulsion, disasters like the one witnessed in the factory of Union Carbide Corporation (UCC)’s hazardous pesticide plant becomes the order of the day. It may be noted that UCC was in asbestos business as well and as a consequence its current owner Dow Chemicals Company has earmarked 2.2 billion US Dollars for compensation to the victims of asbestos related diseases caused due to the acts of omission and commission by the UCC. Bihar Government should set up a compensation fund for victims of asbestos related diseases. It should set a similar fund for decontamination of asbestos laden public buildings like State’s legislatures and courts.