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TWA's complaint against Gidhha based asbestos factory

Written By Gopal Krishna on Saturday, June 04, 2016 | 2:07 AM



To

Chairperson,
Bihar Human Rights Commission
9, Bailey Road, Patna

Date: 3rd June, 2016

Subject- illegal operation of asbestos factory in Giddha, Koilwar, Bhojpur 

Sir,

With due respect being an applicant before the Commission in the ongoing Case No. BHRC/Comp. 313/14 related to asbestos company in Bihiya, Bhojpur I wish to inform you about the
illegal operation of an asbestos factory in Giddha, Koilwar, Bhojpur that has been reported in Aaj newspaper dated June 3, 2016 at page 2. The news clipping is attached. It may be recalled that in my complaint dated February 13, 2014 I had made submission about this Giddha based hazardous factory. 

This news report reveals that although the factory was sealed by the district administration amidst violations of environmental laws and disregard towards public health, the company disregarded the order of the district administration and chose to operate the factory in violation of every rule in the rulebook.   

I submit that I have made several complaints against this factory of Tamil Nadu based Nibhi Industries Pvt. Ltd with One Lakh MT Capacity Asbestos Fiber Cement Corrugated Sheet, Flat Sheet and Accessories and Light Weight Fly Ash Block Plant at Giddha, Koilwar, Bhojpur. These complaints are pending with the District Administration. The asbestos based factory at Giddha, Koilwar is also in proximity of human habitation is exactly in front of Trident BEd College. One worker was crushed to death in this factory in June 2013. It also violates the environmental and industrial siting guidelines of Bihar State Pollution Control Board. It may be noted that written submissions have been submitted to District Collector seeking removal of the plant. It may be noted that Paryawaran Bachao Jeewan Bachao Sangharsh Morcha, Paryawaran Swasthya Suraksha Samiti and Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) have been raising the issue of hazards from such hazardous factories in the interest of public health.

I submit that although environmental clearance given by Experts Appraisal Committee-Industrial Projects, Union Ministry of Environment & Forests and No Objection Certificate given by Bihar State Pollution Control Board is not transferrable, Nibhi company had transferred it to Utkal Asbestos Limited (UAL) for operating the plant. This is clearly in violation of established rules.   

I submit that in contempt of Hon’ble Supreme Court's order dated January 27, 1995, the Nibhi Industries has not been maintaining and maintaining the health record of every worker, nor has it been conducting Membrane Filter test to detect asbestos fibre. It has not been insuring health coverage to every worker. It is reliably learnt that the company does not have qualified occupational health doctors to undertake these tasks. This order was reiterated on January 21, 2011 by the Court. It has been referred to by Hon’ble Patna High Court as well in Civil Writ Jurisdiction Case No.9064 of 2013 and related cases.

I submit that the villagers’ living in the vicinity of this hazardous factory face threat of lung related diseases contracted exposure from asbestos fibers that cause incurable diseases. This happens because safe and controlled use of white chrysotile asbestos like its other varieties is impossible which has led to more than 50 countries banning its use.

I submit that there is a need to ask the owner of the Gidhha based factory to submit the record of each worker who has worked in the factory in question. I submit that the district administration may be asked to submit the health records of all the workers who are working in this factory. The company should be asked for a list of workers employed in the factory, their health records and the qualification of the doctor assigned to undertake their health checkup. It is important to order a health survey of the villagers who live in the vicinity of this hazardous factory. The educational institutions like teachers’ training institutes like Trident B-Ed College and Bihar B-Ed College also needs to be surveyed in this regard. This is necessary because both World Health Organisation (WHO) and International Labour Organisation (ILO) have recommended total elimination of its mining, manufacturing and use. WHO document is attached. It may be noted that mining of asbestos is technically banned in India but the asbestos based factories procure raw asbestos mineral fiber from countries like Russia. It is one of the pernicious and residual legacies of the old era.

I submit that the January 27, 1995 and January 21, 2011 orders of Supreme Court make it clear that State Governments and Government of India have to comply with fresh ILO resolution of June 2006 on asbestos. ILO resolution is available at
 
I submit that health is a State subject. The issue in question is concerned the human rights of the present and future generations. In fact in the Hon’ble Supreme Court's judgment of January 27, 1995 in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 206 of 1986 [CERC Vs Union of India] that dealt with asbestos exposure, right to health was declared as part of fundamental right to life. As per Court's judgment of January 27, 1995 in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 206 of 1986 which was reiterated on January 21, 2011, the health records of workers have to be maintained for 40 years and for 15 years after the retirement. The judgment also stipulates compensation for such workers who suffer from asbestos related diseases.

I also wish to draw your attention towards Hon'ble Patna High Court’s observation dated August 19, 2013 in its order in Civil Writ Jurisdiction Case No.9064 of 2013 saying, “...In the circumstances, this Court is really surprised with the stand of the State Board that the norms have been relaxed for the two other asbestos manufacturing units in operation from before, only on the ground that they are running in the respective industrial areas." These two units are the ones based in Giddha, Koilwar, Bhojpur and Bihiya, Bhojpur. It is a commentary on the inconsistency of the Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB).

In the light of the observation of the Hon’ble High Court it is abundantly that Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB) is adopting double standards in the matter of cancellation of Consent to Establish-cum- No Objection Certificate (NOC) given to asbestos companies in Bhojpur and Vaishali. The two companies -namely, Tamil Nadu based Ramco Industries and Nibhi Industries -mentioned by the Court are located in Bihiya and Giddha, Koilwar of Bhojpur district. BSPCB has cancelled the NOC of West Bengal based Utkal Asbestos Limited (UAL)'s proposed asbestos based plant in Vaishali for violating environmental and industrial siting guidelines of BSPCB.

I submit that through a letter dated December 26, 2013, BSPCB has refused to extend the Consent to Establish (NOC) given to West Bengal based Utkal Asbestos Limited (UAL)'s proposed asbestos based plant in Vaishali but it has remained silent about the asbestos plants in Bhojpur.  That the cancellation of the proposed asbestos factory in Vaishali was done in pursuance of the assurance of Hon’ble Chief Minister, Government of Bihar to a delegation of anti-asbestos activists and political leaders that met him at his residence on February 13, 2013. Hon’ble Chief Minister promised that he will puncture such hazardous plants in the fertile land of Bihar. This has been done in Muzaffarpur and Vaishali but it remains to be followed in Bhojpur.  While BSPCB has done the right thing by citing its battery limit of "a distance of minimum 500 meters from the National/State Highway, Railway line, river and human habitation" to outlaw the proposal of a asbestos company, the same should be applied to asbestos based toxic factories in Bhojpur. No amount of sophistry by the companies operating in Bhojpur and some officials in BSPCB can undermine the gnawing anxiety about risk and hazardous consequences underlined by WHO and ILO which has sought elimination of manufacturing and use of asbestos based products.

I submit that communities in villages around the hazardous industrial unit in Giddha cannot be expected to become superior risk bearers unlike villagers of Muzaffarpur and Vaishali where similar plants have been stopped.

I submit that when defending the indefensible asbestos factories becomes a compulsion of officialdom, disasters like the one witnessed in the Bhopal based factory of Union Carbide Corporation (UCC)'s hazardous pesticide plant become the order of the day. UCC was also in the asbestos business whose liability has been owned by its buyer US based Dow Chemicals Company and assigned $ 2.2 billion dollars for compensation fund to the victims in US where 10, 000 people are dying every year from asbestos related diseases.

I wish to draw your attention towards the attached order of Kerala State Human Rights Commission (KHRC) dated January 31, 2009 against use of asbestos. Its recommendations are: “a)    The State Government will replace asbestos roofs of all school buildings under its control with country tiles in a phased manner. b)    The Government will take steps to see that the schools run under the private management also replace the asbestos roofs with country tiles by fixing a time frame. c) The Government should see that in future no new school is allowed to commence its functions with asbestos roofs.”

It is relevant to note that in Case No.693/30/97-98, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) ordered, “Replace the asbestos sheets roofing with roofing made up of some other material that would not be harmful to inmates.” It is evident that the NHRC considers asbestos sheets as harmful.  
It is noteworthy that asbestos fibers used for making asbestos cement roofs etc is a ticking time bomb for lungs which causes preventable but incurable diseases and deaths.

In view of the above facts, I seek Commission's intervention in the matter for providing relief to the workers of the asbestos based factory in question and save the villagers of Bhojpur from such hazardous plants. The company may be asked to undertake decontamination of the site and compensation for exposing the villagers of Giddha to asbestos fibers in the interest of present and future generations. 

I will be happy to share more information.

Thanking You

Yours faithfully
Dr Gopal Krishna
Director
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
Mb: 09818089660, 08227816731
E-mail:1715krishna@gmail.com
Web: www.toxicswatch.org


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