Environmentalist writes to CM, wants to make city asbestos-free

Last Updated 10 September 2012, 19:22 IST

 A Delhi-based environmentalist has written to chief minister Sheila Dikshit highlighting the harmful effects of asbestos.

Though the city government has banned abestos roofs in new schools, the ban has
not been extended to other buildings or products, the letter said.

“Nearly all vehicles in Delhi are laden with asbestos-based components. There is no building in Delhi which is asbestos free. I submit that given the fact that health is a state subject, you can immediately initiate steps to stop procurement of all asbestos-based products to safeguard public health of residents,” said the letter written last week by Gopal Krishna, convenor of ToxicsWatchAlliance.

Krishna said the government can set an example in preventing harm to environment and health due to asbestos use.

“Delhi has the potential to become the first asbestos free state in South Asia. More than 50 countries have banned production, use, manufacture and trade of the asbestos because of threats to life and public health,” said Krishna.

He said India should stop getting raw asbestos fibres from Russia’s Ural Asbestos Mining and Ore Dressing Company, considered the world’s largest manufacturer, and cancel its asbestos trade agreements with Canada, Kazakhstan and Brazil.
According to health experts, asbestos-related diseases include lung cancer, mesothelioma and cancers of the ovary and larynx.

Krishna asked the government to start prevention efforts with the help of a country-specific “national programmes for elimination of asbestos-related diseases” in line with International Labour Organisation and World Health Organisation guidelines.

The National Human Rights Commission had issued notices to the state government on July 6, 2011 and a statement on June 5, 2012 alleging that the city government has not filed its status report on victims of diseases caused by asbestos
in the Capital, despite reminders.

While protests in Muzaffarpur and Vaishali in Bihar have led to closure of asbestos factories there, plants in Madhubani, West Champaran and production of the material in Bhojpur districts are facing resistance.

Villagers are protesting against proposed asbestos cement roofing factories in Sambalpur and Bargarh district of Odisha, due to which the Sambalpur plant has been halted. Protests against asbestos factories in Himachal Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh are also on.

(Published 10 September 2012, 19:22 IST)

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