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Environmental groups demand Asbestos Free Himachal

Written By Krishna on Tuesday, April 24, 2012 | 2:01 AM

Press Release

Environmental groups demand Asbestos Free Himachal

Ban use and manufacture of asbestos products

Shimla/New Delhi: Himalaya Niti Abhiyan and ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) have demanded immediate stoppage of Delhi based Vardhman Roofings Private Ltd’s proposed lung cancer causing Asbestos Cement Sheet Plant at Trilokpur Road, Village: Kheri, Tehsil: Nahan, District: Sirmaur, Himachal Pradesh. Environmental groups also demand that the state government should take step to make the state asbestos free because asbestos is banned in over 55 countries. TWA has sent a letter to the Chief Secretary in this regard.

State government should take note of the notice sent by National Human Rights Commission in the matter of incurable asbestos related diseases on July 6, 2011 to the Chief Secretary, Himachal Pradesh. (Reference: http://nhrc.nic.in/dispArchive.asp?fno=2334)It is a fact that central government does not favour new asbestos plants in the country. "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". A concept paper by Union Ministry of Labour revealed this at the two-day 5th India-EU Joint Seminar on “Occupational Safety and Health” on 19th and 20th September, 2011.(Reference: http://www.labour.nic.in/lc/Background%20note.pdf).

It is strange that on the one hand Union Environment Ministry’s Vision Statement on Environment and Human Health (Para 4.3.1) reads: “Alternatives to asbestos may be used to the extent possible and use of asbestos may be phased out”, on the other hand the asbestos project was given environmental clearance on May 10, 2011. (Reference:http://moef.nic.in/divisions/cpoll/envhealth/visenvhealth.pdf)

It is noteworthy that Union Ministry of Chemicals has rightly disassociated itself from asbestos producing countries like Russia and Canada on June 22, 2011 at a UN meeting. Government of India has taken a position that it considers chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance.

State government should pay heed to World Health Assembly Resolution on cancer prevention that urges countries to pay special attention to cancers for which avoidable exposure is a factor, including exposure to chemicals at the workplace.

In 2005, the World Health Assembly requested WHO to carry out a global campaign for the elimination of asbestos-related diseases.

The resolution of the 95th Session of the International Labour Conference of ILO in June 2006 stated, "Considering that all forms of asbestos, including chrysotile, are classified as known human carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a classification restated by the International Programme on Chemical Safety (a joint Programme of the International Labour Organization, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme), it resolves that: (a) the elimination of the future use of asbestos and the identification and proper management of asbestos currently in place are the most effective means to protect workers from asbestos exposure and to prevent future asbestos-related diseases and deaths; and (b) the Asbestos Convention, 1986 (No. 162), should not be used to provide a justification for, or endorsement of, the continued use of asbestos."There are grave concerns about asbestos exposures resulting in public health crisis world over.

This has compelled 55 countries to ban use of asbestos. In the absence of environmental and occupational health infrastructure, the passivity of the state governments cannot be deemed acceptable.In view of the above, state government should take immediate and urgent steps to prevent environmental and occupational exposure to asbestos' besides non-occupational exposures to asbestos. Asbestos related material like asbestos cement sheets, asbestos cement pressure pipes and joints, asbestos cement flat sheets, asbestos cement building boards, asbestos cement cable conduits and troughs etc must be phased out.

Himachal Government ought to stop such hazardous plants to save residents of the state from incurable lung diseases. There should be a moratorium on asbestos based hazardous industries and steps should be taken to phase out asbestos use and take immediate steps to ban this killer fiber to save the present and future citizens of the state and the country.

For Details: Guman Singh, Himalaya Niti Abhiyan, Shimla Mb:09418277220 E-mail: gumanhna@gmail.com Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance, New Delhi, Mb: 09818089660, E-mail: krishna1715@gmail.com, Web:toxicswatch.blogspot.com
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