Tuesday, 22 November 2011
The Project involving the Asbestos Fibre Cement Roofing Sheet Project (1,00,000 TPA) at Gidha Industrial Growth Centre, Block Koilwar, District Bhojpur, Bihar by Nibhi Industries Pvt. Ltd has acquired 15 acres in Gidha. The project was considered for Issuing EC on Feb 02, 2010. It got EC on Feb 27, 2010.
This Chennai based Nibhi Industries Private Limited has ignored the fatal disease caused by asbestos fibers. Villagers are protesting against it under the banner of Paryavaran Swasthya Surakhsa Samiti, local trade union and CPIML is supporting the struggle against the plant. Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) has visited the site. It has written to the DM and other concerned authorities to stop this hazardous plant.
Ramco Industries Ltd has set up a hazardous Asbestos Fibre Cement Sheet Plant (1,20,000 TPA) at village & Taluk Bihiya, Bhojpur, Bihar.
it has been allotted 20 acres land by the Bihar Industrial Area Development Authority (BIADA), Patna. The company has claimed that out of 20 acres of total land, green belt will be developed in 8 acres i.e. 40 % of total plant area.
The company misled the environment ministry saying "No rehabilitation and resettlement is involved."
The plant is using raw asbestos fiber (10,200 TPA), cement (54,000 TPA), fly ash (31,800 TPA) and paper pulp (600 TPA) will be used as raw materials. Raw material will be transported by covered trucks.
The Project is estimated to cost Rs.300 million. The project was considered for Issuing EC on Dec 13, 2007. The Environmental Clearance was issued on January 17, 2011. The public hearing which was conducted under shadow of guns, reported the local edition of Hindustan newspaper.
Ramco Industries Limited is headquartered at Auras Corporate 98A, Dr. Radhakrishnan Centre, VI Floor, Road,Post Box No. 2949, Mylapore 600004, Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
Villagers are protesting against it. Due to the involvement of mafia elements there is a bitter resentment brewing in the area. Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) has visited the site adjacent to famous temple.
Monday, 27 December 2010
Sunday, 26 December 2010
Shri Sushil Kumar Modi
Deputy Chief Minister
Department of Environment & Forests
Government of Bihar
Subject-Stop Asbestos Cement Plants in Bihar
This is to draw your urgent attention towards the proposed asbestos cement roofing sheet factory in Chainpur, Muzaffarpur which is facing massive and unprecedented opposition by the villagers since July 2010. It has come to light that similar plants have been proposed by Chennai based Ramco Industries Limited in Bihiya, Bhojpur and Kolkata based Utkal Asbetsos Industries, in Panapur, Vaishali.
I wish to inform you that The White Asbestos (Ban on Use and Import) Bill, 2009 is pending in the Rajya Sabha. Some 52 countries have already banned it. There is a compelling logic to initiate the process of banning asbestos manufacturing, trade and use in Bihar as well.
It is estimated that "currently about 125 million people in the world are exposed to asbestos at the workplace. According to WHO estimates, more than 107,000 people die each year from asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis resulting from occupational exposures. One in every three deaths from occupational cancer is estimated to be caused by asbestos. In addition, it is estimated that several thousands of deaths can be attributed annually to exposure to asbestos in the living environment." There is a list of documents reflecting WHO's assessment of the risks of the different forms of asbestos and WHOs' technical directions and recommendations for the elimination of asbestos-related diseases. Please find attached a scientifically referenced fact sheet on elimination of asbestos prepared by WHO.
When the world is preparing and planning to get rid of all forms of asbestos, it makes us look stupid in Bihar, India to be still importing it, we should devote our scarce resources to prevent the impending public health disaster by phasing out this killer fiber as soon as we can.
Safer substitute materials for white asbestos are available, they should be considered for use. White (chrysotile) asbestos, which represents 100% of the global asbestos trade is not yet completely banned in India but all the relevant UN agencies have called for its immediate elimination because its safe and controlled use is impossible.
The United Nations (UN) document, Environmental Health Criteria 203 for Chrysotile Asbestos concludes, “Exposure to chrysotile asbestos poses increased risks for asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma in a dose-dependent manner. No threshold has been identified for carcinogenic risks.” This criterion has been created by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), ILO and WHO.
Strangely, India has banned mining of asbestos which used to be done in Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand by banning non-renewal of pre-existing leases including chrysotile asbestos mines due to health hazards from its lethal fibers but allows countries like Canada to dump their asbestos in India. Asbestos waste trade is also banned in India. Besides White Asbestos, all the other forms of asbestos such as Blue Asbestos, Brown Asbestos are banned in India. But Chrysotile (white) asbestos is yet to be banned despite incontrovertible evidence against it.
Asbestos is a mineral fiber that has been used commonly in a variety of building construction materials for insulation and as a fire-retardant. Either through wind erosion or through normal wear and tear, when asbestos-containing materials are damaged or disturbed by repair, remodeling or demolition activities, microscopic fibers become airborne and can be inhaled into the lungs, it leads to significant incurable health problems. It became a popular building material since the 1940 because its a health hazards were suppressed by the asbestos industry.
Asbestos exposure leads to diseases like mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, asbestosis, pleural thickening. Mesothelioma is a cancer which affects the lining of the lungs (pleura) and the lining surrounding the lower digestive tract (peritoneum). It is almost exclusively related to asbestos exposure and by the time it is diagnosed, it is almost always fatal.
Asbestos-related lung cancer is the same as (looks the same as) lung cancer caused by smoking and other causes. It is estimated that there is around one lung cancer for every mesothelioma death.
Asbestosis is a serious scarring condition of the lung that normally occurs after heavy exposure to asbestos over many years. This condition can cause progressive shortness of breath, and in severe cases can be fatal.
Pleural thickening is generally a problem that happens after heavy asbestos exposure. The lining of the lung (pleura) thickens and swells. If this gets worse, the lung itself can be squeezed, and can cause shortness of breath and discomfort in the chest.
According to UK Government’s Health & Safety Executive, “Asbestos is a hidden killer that can cause four serious diseases. These diseases will not affect you immediately; they often take a long time to develop, but once diagnosed, it is often too late to do anything.” Not surprisingly, European countries were the first to ban the mining, manufacturing, trade and use of this killer fiber. Asbestos is being promoted freely in our country whereas the developed countries are keeping away from it. Canada which is one of the bigger suppliers of asbestos has decontaminated its parliament (House of Commons) and has adopted a no home use policy.
In view of the above, I wish to seek your urgent intervention in the matter of a serious unprecedented environmental and occupational health crisis with regard to imminent asbestos epidemic in Bihar in general.
Even if one asbestos fibre reaches the right place, it causes irreversible damage - leading to asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma. Earlier on August 18, 2003, Mrs Sushma Swaraj, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare informed the Parliament that: "…long-term exposure to any type of asbestos can lead to development of asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma."
This was not the first official acknowledgment of the asbestos hazard. Government of India's Office Memorandum NO.6 (6)/94 - Cement, (Sept 1, 1994) of the Ministry of Industry states: "The Department has generally not been recommending any case of Industrial License to any new unit for the creation of fresh capacity of asbestos products in the recent past due to the apprehension that prolonged exposure to asbestos leads to serious health hazards".
It may be noted that in 2006 alone there were more than 1,000 mesothelioma deaths (asbestos related fatal disease) in Japan which along with some 52 countries has banned asbestos. Some 10, 000 people are dying of asbestos related diseases in the US. Indians in general and people of Bihar in particular face and await a similar fate.
These asbestos factories are proposed unmindful of the fact that World Health Organisation (WHO) and International Labour Organisation (ILO) too have called for the elimination of asbestos of all kinds. Delay in stopping asbestos plants in Bihar is a victory for those who do not wish to put health and the environment ahead of commercial interests.
Although the Supreme Court of India has ruled that the Government of India must comply with ILO resolutions, so far the ILO resolution (June 14, 2006) stating "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 exposures and to prevent future asbestos-related disease and deaths" has not been acted upon.
The WHO document says, “Elimination of asbestos-related diseases should take place through the following public health actions: a) recognizing that the most efficient way to eliminate asbestos-related diseases is to stop the use of all types of asbestos; b) replacing asbestos with safer substitutes and developing economic and technological mechanisms to stimulate its replacement; c) taking measures to prevent exposure to asbestos in place and during asbestos removal (abatement), and; d) improving early diagnosis, treatment, social and medical rehabilitation of asbestos-related diseases and establishing registries of people with past and/or current exposures to asbestos.”
I am an environmental health researcher. I have worked with national and international organizations working on environmental and occupational health. I am an applicant in the Supreme Court in the hazardous wastes/shipbreaking case.
It is high time you took note of the possible exposures to the residents, consumers and workers from the Asbestos Plants in Bihar and took immediate remedial measures. The exposure of asbestos fibers defies regulatory control efforts in any country.
I wish to draw your urgent attention to the order of Kerala Human Rights Commission (KHRC) that has ruled that exposing Indians to asbestos is a human rights violation. This paves the way for the eventual complete ban on asbestos and its products. On January 31, 2009, the KHRC ruled that the government should take steps to phase out asbestos roofing from all schools in the state.
National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has passed an order recommending that the asbestos sheets roofing be replaced with roofing made up of some other material. The Annual Report of NHRC 2003-2004 refers to a Report entitled “Asbestos – Health and Environment – an in-depth Study” submitted by the Institute of Public Health Engineers, India. NHRC is currently examining an application to make our country asbestos free at the earliest.
As per the survey of U.P. Asbestos Limited, Mohanlalganj,Lucknow and Allied Nippon Pvt Ltd, Gaziabad, (U.P), the lung function impairment was found to be higher in subjects exposed for more than 11 years. This was the result of a Central Pollution Control Board sponsored project entitled "Human risk assessment studies in asbestos industries in India". This has been reported in the (2001-2002) Annual Report of Industrial Toxicological Research Centre, Lucknow. It has also been published in the 139th Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment, Forests, Science and Technology and presented to the parliament on 17th March, 2005.
Given the ubiquitous presence of the fiber, there is no alternative to getting it banned in right earnest. Scientists, doctors, public health researchers, trade unions, activists and civil society groups has been working to persuade the central government and state governments to give up its consistent and continued pro-asbestos industry bias and lack of concern for the asbestos-injured who die one of the most painful deaths imaginable.
World over, public health researchers, civil society groups, trade unions and human rights groups have demanded an immediate ban on all uses of asbestos including an immediate end to the import of chrysotile. They seek measures to identify, compensate and treat the asbestos-injured and regulations to minimize harmful exposures are also being proposed. They demand criminal prosecution of those responsible for asbestos exposures such as factory owners and company directors who knowingly expose unsuspecting people to killer fibers of asbestos.
Although non-asbestos technology certainly exists in India, in fact in some factories the two technologies exist side-by-side, consumers will inevitably opt for the cheaper product: more demand will translate into higher sales which will generate more chrysotile rupees that can be used to obtain political support.
As the quid-pro-quo relationship between Government officials and asbestos businessmen exists outside the
media spotlight, journalists and the public remain unaware of the pernicious reasons which motivate the decisions being taken; decisions which will expose current and future generations to the deadly asbestos hazard. Hopefully, the asbestos industry’s blind profit mongering will not succeed in silencing the officials in Bihar. A people’s government will keep public health ahead of commercial interest. The proposed asbestos plants in Bihar are attest case for the same.
The pattern of asbestos disease in Bihar is all set to follow the diseases pattern seen in the developed countries. Concerned with the global and national evidence about the increasing death toll of asbestos workers, trade unions, labour and environmental groups have sought immediate phase out of chrysotile asbestos.
Despite the fact that even the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has given an appropriate judgment against it, upholding France's decision to ban import of asbestos from Canada, successive governments in India have promoted this killer mineral fibre ignoring public health.
Dr S R Kamat, a renowned lung specialist, former head, Respiratory Medicine, KEM Hospital, Mumbai notes that in the 5 surveys done in the country, large number of the subjects showed asbestos lung diseases. All of them showed breathing problem, many had cough, some had sputum, chest pain finger clubbing and chest pain. He notes, "Disability in the cases of asbestos diseases is permanent."
Union Ministry of Labour has concluded that even in controlled conditions asbestos workers continue to suffer and safety gear made no material difference in their condition. It took note of Prevalence of Asbestosis and Related Disorders in an Asbestos Fiber Processing Unit in West Bengal as early as in 1996.
Taking note of the fact that public concern, regulations and liabilities involved have ended the use of asbestos from the developed countries, residents of Bihar wonder, "why is it that the concern of the countries, which have banned asbestos not relevant to India?." Exposing communities to asbestos must be equated to murder and legal provisions must deal with it accordingly.
Experimental as well as epidemiological studies proved asbestos as carcinogen as well as co-carcinogen. Risk assessment and control of occupational exposure are very poor in developing countries like India," says Dr Qamar Rehman, a renowned toxicologist, former scientist with Industrial Toxicology Research Centre, Lucknow.
In the light of these findings and developments, in short I seek your immediate intervention to stop the construction of proposed asbestos cement plants in Bihar.
We earnestly request you to direct all the workers and consumers in your state to take immediate steps to ensure that there no more exposures take place from now on.
I submit that Bihar government must consider putting an end to the use of the of all kinds of asbestos products that is being used and encountered daily, because none of the schools, offices, legislatures, courts, hospitals, automobiles, private and public buildings in our state are asbestos free.
Therefore, it is necessary to initiate preventive action in order to protect present and future generations from asbestos fibers, a silent killer which is akin to a time bomb in the lung.
I will be glad to share more relevant information against asbestos of all forms including white asbestos (chrysotile) that is proposed to be used in the plants in Bihar.
Thanking you in anticipation.
Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)
Mr Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister, Bihar
Mr Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister of Environment & Forests
Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad, Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare
Ms. K. Sujatha Rao, Secretary, Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare,
Mr R. K. Srivastava, Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), Government of India
Ms. Sudha Pillai, Member Secretary, Planning Commission, Government of India
Chief Secretary, Government of Bihar
Principal Secretary, Department of Health, Government of Bihar
Prof. Subhash Chandra Singh, Chairman, Bihar State Pollution Control Board
Prof. S. P. Gautam, Chairman, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)
Mr Anand Kishore, District Magistrate, Muzaffarpur
Mr Sunil Kumar, Superintendent of Police, Muzaffarpur
Dr (Ms) Safina A N, District Magistrate, Bhojpur
Mr Anil Kishore Yadav, Superintendent of Police, Bhojpur
Mr Sanjeev Hans, District Magistrate, Vaishali
Mr Sujit Kumar, Superintendent of Police, Vaishali
Saturday, 25 December 2010
Arrest of Anti-Asbestos Protesters Condemned
Environmental Clearance Process Questionable
Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI), Asbestos Virodhi Andolan and Nagrik Forum have condemned the arrest of Mr Tarkeshwar Giri and Mr Kumud Ram, leaders of Khet Bachao Jeevan Bachao Jansangarsh Samiti who were coordinating the protest against the construction of toxic asbestos cement plant. The plant is based on Chrysotile (white) asbestos. Balmukund Cement and Roofing Ltd (BCRL) headquartered in Kolkata has indulged in fraudulent misrepresentation in its Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report by saying that the land acquired by the company is “barren”, the fact is that it’s a very fertile land. The EIA report and the statement of the Nagrik Forum is attached. When the land was being acquired for the factory, the villagers weretold that it is being procured for agro based factory.
Even now the factory site does not have any display board disclosing the purpose for which the construction began. Even the flawed and dishonest Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report prepared by the project proponent reveals that 29000 tonnes per annum of raw asbestos fiber, a hazardous material will be imported from Canada, Brazil and Zimbabwe. The EIA report talks of good qualities of the killer fiber but hides its disastrous environmental and occupational health effects. The EIA report claims that the dust fibers will be kept below 0.5 fiber/cc but does not disclose that “safe” and “controlled” of asbestos in any form is impossible.
Oblivious of this the EIA report claims:
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH CRITERIA 203 for Chrysotile Asbestos concludes, “Exposure to chrysotile asbestos poses increased risks for asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma in a dose-dependent manner. No threshold has been identified for carcinogenic risks.” This criteria has been created by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), International Labour Organisation(ILO)and World Health Organisation (WHO)
Such claims and promises of safe use have been demolished long back even by agencies like World Trade Organisation (WTO)’s Appellate Body and World Bank Group. The Shiva Test House, Patna which did the study for the EIA does reveal cursorily that “Construction site has a potential hazardous environment”, “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.” There is no evidence to suggest that this has been done. It has ignored the adverse environmental and occupational health impacts of the proposed plant possibly because of the demands of the project proponent. The communities in the vicinity of the plant are denied even this cursory treatment with regard to hazards from asbestos. It is noteworthy that there are no industrial physicians and virtually no environmental and occupational health centres in Bihar. Under the circumstances, preventing the asbestos plant is better than suffering from asbestos related diseases with no possible cure in sight.
BCRL has unleashed a reign a terror against the villagers of Chainpur, Marwan Block, Muzaffarpur in collusion with the block, dub division and district administration who are protesting against a proposed asbestos cement plant in the vicinity of their residential area.
When despite the assurance of the administration, the construction at the plant site was not stopped, an indefinite Dharna was started on December 13, 2010. The factory’s management officials, B K Tiwari, Sanjiv Mishra attacked the villagers along with their private army of 50-60 anti-social people. Following this the administration had fixed 29 December, 2010 as a date for dialogue between the company and the villagers along with experts of asbestos.
Now as per letter of Kundan Kumar, SDO dated 22nd December the scheduled date of the dialogue has now been postponed unilaterally because of direction from higher authorities. The letter seeks written submissions from both the sides by 28th December so that it can consult the Bihar State Pollution Control Board on the issues raised. Similar letter has been sent to the protestors by Amrendar Kumar, Block Development Officer, Marwan, Muzaffarpur, District Administration, Muzaffarpur, Bihar pretends ignorance about The White Asbestos (Ban on Use and Import) Bill, 2009 which is pending the Rajya Sabha.
The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the White Asbestos (Ban on Use and Import) Bill, 2009 introduced on 31 July 2009 captures clearly the global stand on this issue: “The white asbestos is highly carcinogenic even the World Health Organisation has reported that it causes cancer. It is a rare fibrous material that is used to make rooftops and brake linings. More than fifty countries have already banned the use and import of white asbestos. Even the countries that export it to India prefer not to use it domestically. But in our country, it is imported without any restriction. Canada and Russia are the biggest exporters of white asbestos. In 2007, Canada exported almost Ninety five percent of the white asbestos it mined and out of it forty-three percent was shipped to India. It is quite surprising that our country is openly importing huge quantity of a product, which causes cancer. This is despite the fact that safer and almost cheap alternatives to asbestos are available in the country. Instead of importing a hazardous material, it will be better if we spend some money in research and development and use environment friendly product. In view of the above, there is an urgent need for a total ban on the import and use of white asbestos and promote the use of alternative material.”
National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had passed an order in Case No: 693/30/97-98 recommending that the asbestos sheets roofing be replaced with roofing made up of some other material that would not be harmful to the inmates. The Annual Report of NHRC 2003-2004 refers to a Report entitled “ Asbestos – Health and Environment – an in-depth Study “ submitted by the Institute of Public Health Engineers, India. The exposure to killer fibers of constitute human rights violation of the exposed communities, there is an immediate need to protect the villagers from incurable lung cancer and other diseases. The villagers are bitterly opposed to the asbestos plant that poses a grave threat to their health.
This factory is coming up unmindful of the fact that some 52 countries have banned asbestos. WHO and ILO have called for the elimination of asbestos of all kinds. A serious unprecedented environmental and occupational health crisis in the form of impending asbestos disease epidemic in Muzaffarpur merits serious consideration. Even if one asbestos fibre reaches the right place, it causes irreversible damage - leading to asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma.
Taking note of the fact that public concern, regulations and liabilities involved have ended the use of asbestos from the developed countries, delegates residents of Chainpur, Muzaffarpur wonder, "why is it that the concern of the countries, which have banned asbestos not relevant to Bihar, India?." Exposing communities to asbestos must be equated to murder and legal provisions must deal with it accordingly. How many consumers would want to use the material if they know that even a single exposure can cause cancer? "Experimental as well as epidemiological studies proved asbestos as carcinogen as well as co-carcinogen. Risk assessment and control of occupational exposure are very poor in developing countries like India," said Dr Qamar Rehman, former scientist, Industrial Toxicology Research Centre, Lucknow and currently Dean at the Integral University, Lucknow.
On 16th September, Sub Divisional Officer (SDO) convened a meeting of the representatives of villagers and the factory woner for a dialogue following which the construction at the plant was stopped till further orders. On 14th September, 2010, the construction at the asbestos factory was stopped by the villagers although the company had attempted to start it with the help of huge police force.
On November 6, 2010, the factory owner attempted to start the construction and burnt their won vehicle to lodge false cases against the protestors. The villagers stopped the construction again on 15th November under the leadership of Sachidanand Sinha, a well known socialist thinker. Dr Tarun Mondal, Member of Parliament, Samiti and BANI has written to Jairam Ramesh, Union Environment Minister against the proposed asbestos plant. In response to Dr Mondal’s November 1st letter, Jairam Ramesh has assured that he would take appropriate measures in the matter.
The Samiti was formed in July 2010. On August 11, 2010, the Samiti had given a petition signed by hundred of villagers to the District Administration expressing its grave concerns against the proposed asbestos plant. On 20th August, 2010, All India Krishak Khet Mazdoor Sangathan also protested in front of the Block office against acquisition of agricultural land for hazardous asbestos factory. On 30th August, there was demonstration in front of District Magistrate (DM)’s office. It has become an open secret that the repressive measures of the district administration against peaceful protests of villagers are being undertaken at the behest of the company in question. Dozens of villages in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar have been protesting the construction of an asbestos fibre-cement roofing plant nearby since January, 2010 when work began at the site without the required mandatory environmental clearance.
The Samiti did a Dharana in front of DM office on 4th September. When the DM did not respond despite repeated petitions and protests, thousands of villagers demonstrated in front of the gate of asbestos cement factory on 8th September, 2010. On 13th December, a private army of the factory owner fired upon the non-violent protest of the villagers in connivance of the District administration. Notably, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report is dated 25th March, 2010. The Hindi translation of the EIA report was not made available and still the the public hearing was held for the project on June 28, 2010.
At the public hearing only the workers of the factory were allowed to speak and the villagers were silenced. The minutes of the public hearing was not read out to the participants of the meeting. The EIA notification, 2006 specifies the proceedings have to be read out in the language understood by the people, after which the agreed minutes are signed by the District Magistrate. Earlier, M K Singh, member secretary, Bihar State Pollution Control Board misled the villagers. Due to protests of the villagers the date and venue of the public hearing had to be changed.
The factory is cited 15 kilometers away from the Muzaffarpur Railway Station and Buri Gandak river is 16 km away from the factory site. The total cost of the project is Rs 31 crore. The company present directors include Nawal Kumar Kanodia, Abhishek Kanodia and Sanjay Jalan.
(Photo Credits: Gopal Krishna)