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Indian Environment Minister takes "note" of reasons for India disassociating itself from Russia & other asbestos producers at UN Meet on hazardous substances

Written By Gopal Krishna on Monday, May 04, 2015 | 1:53 AM

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

May 4, 2015: In a remarkable move India's Minister of Environment Forests & Climate Change ( MoEFCC), Prakash Javadekar has communicated today 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.com, Blog:banasbestosindia.blogspot.in
Web: www.toxicswatch.org, Website of Rotterdam Convention Secretariat:  http://www.pic.int/ 

Letter to Indian Environment Minister & Chemical Minister 
From: krishna 
Date: Sun, May 3, 2015 at 9:44 PM
Subject: Why India must disassociate itself from Russia & other white chrysotile asbestos producers at CoP 7 of Rotterdam Convention
To: akumar-alpha@sansad.nic.in, ananth@ananth.org, pjavadekar
Cc: Ahir , sec.cpc@nic.in, ajv.prasad@nic.in, shashi.shekhar@nic.in, hempande@nic.in, sujata@nic.in, mission.india@ties.itu.int, vinay.s@gov.in, PmoCabinet Secy , secy-labour , secyer , secywest , secyhfw , secydhr , secy-mines , mallikarjunkharge , "P. Karunakaran" , Devi prasad Tripathi , "pawan.varma"

    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

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.
Its url is: http://envfor.nic.in/legis/hsm/hsm2.html
http://envfor.nic.in/legis/hsm/hsm2sch1.html

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.”
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

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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