Press Release: “Bihar Chief Minister promises to ‘puncture’ construction of asbestos factories”

Press Release  February 14, 2013

Shared by Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance

Bihar Chief Minister promises to ‘puncture’ construction of asbestos factories

Chief Minister’s environment friendly intervention welcomed

Memorandum demands stoppage of asbestos factory and withdrawal of fake cases

Patna/New Delhi February 14, 2013: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar met the leaders of ban asbestos movement led by Vaishali’s Khet Bachao Jeevan Bachao Jan Sangharsh Committee (KBJBJC) and the leaders of left parties and promised to ‘puncture’ construction of asbestos factories in the State. The Chief Minister met the leaders at his residence at 1, Anne Marg in Patna in the evening hours of on February 13, 2013. The Hindi Press Release of Khet Bachao Jeevan Bachao Jan Sangharsh Committee (KBJBJC) and their Memorandum to the Chief Minister is attached.

This announcement of the Chief Minister follows declaration of Shri Awadhesh Narain Singh, Chairman, Bihar Legislative Council saying ‘buying asbestos is akin to buying cancer’ at a conference on environmental and occupational health on December 24, 2012, in his address to the health experts, scientists, trade union leaders, academicians, civil society leaders and villagers. The conference also adopted a Patna Declaration urging State of Bihar to ban Asbestos Product Use and to ban Asbestos Product Use. Speech of Chairman, Bihar Legislative Council is available athttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9TbemRUkYM The Declaration which has been submitted to the Chief Minister is attached.

Officials present at the meeting suggested a campaign to end the use of asbestos based products in the State.

Bihar Chief Minister expressed outrage at the granting of ‘No Objection Certificate’ by Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB) to hazardous asbestos based factories in fertile agricultural lands.

In a remarkable move Bihar Chief Minister phoned Chairman, BSPCB and fixed an appointment for the villagers of Vaishali for February 14 and expressed his disapproval for asbestos based factories to him in front of the leaders of the left parties and the villagers’ committee.

Villagers met the Chairman, BSPCB today. The Chairman spoke to District Magistrate, Vaishali and assured the villagers of necessary action for cancelling the approval given to the asbestos company’s plant.

The current status of the asbestos factories in Bihar is as under:

1) Kolkata based UAL Industries Ltd for Establishment of 2, 33, 000 MT per year capacity Asbestos Cement Sheet and Corrugated Sheets Plant in two phases at Goraul, Vaishali in the name of UAL-Bihar. Earlier it was proposed at Bakhtiyarpur. This has been suspended temporarily

2) Chennai based Ramco Industries Ltd for establishment of 1, 20, 000 MT/Annum Capacity of Asbestos Cement Sheet Plant and 2 Lakh MT/Annum Capacity of Cement Grinding Plant at Industrial Area, Bihiya, Bhojpur. In his speech of Chairman, Bihar Legislative Council available above on the youtube, he expressed concern about this plant.

3) Chennai based Nibhi Industries Pvt. Ltd for establishment of the One Lakh MT Capacity Asbestos Fiber Cement Corrugated Sheet, Flat Sheet and Accessories and Light Weight Fly Ash Block Plant at Industrial Growth Centre, Giddha, Ara, Bhojpur. In his speech of Chairman, Bihar Legislative Council available above on the youtube, he expressed concern about this plant. This has been taken on lease by Utkal Asbestos Limited (UAL) in a strategic move realizing that construction of its asbestos based plant will not be allowed by the villagers of Vaishali.

4) Andhra Pradesh based Hyderabad Industries Ltd for establishment of 2, 50, 000 MT per year capacity Asbestos Cement Sheeting Plant in two Phases at Kumarbagh Industrial Area, West Champaran

5) Kolkata based Balmukund Cement & Roofings Ltd for establishment of 1.5 Lakh MT capacity production unit of Asbestos Fiber Cement Sheet (Corrugated/Flat) and Accessories at Chainpur-Bishunpur, Marwan, Muzaffarpur. This has been stopped following bitter struggle of villagers of Marwan block of Muzaffarpur.

6) Rajasthan based A Infrastructure Ltd for establishment of 1, 25, 000 MT per year capacity Asbestos Cement (A.C.) Sheet and 1,00,000 MT per year capacity A.C. Pressure Pipe at Pandaul Industrial Area, Madhubani.

Following Chief Minister’s intervention Bihar’s State Investment Promotion Board (SIPB) and the State Cabinet must disapprove asbestos based industrial projects and rescind earlier approvals.

Struggle of villagers of Vaishali’s Chaksultan Rampur Rajdhari near Panapur in Kanhauli Dhanraj Panchayat in Goraul block against asbestos based factory has reached a decisive phase. Villagers have been protesting against this lung cancer causing hazardous plant under the banner of KBJBJC for more than 2 years.
After the villagers Mahadharna of June 14, 2012, the district administration had put a stay on the construction of the factory. When the construction started again on December 16, 2012, the villagers blocked the Mahua-Samastipur road for 9 hours to express their protest against the proposed white asbestos plant of UAL company in their village on June 14. Cancer causing white asbestos also called chrysotile asbestos is banned in 55 countries.

It is noteworthy 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.” This has been revealed in a concept
paper by Union Ministry of Labour revealed during 19-20th September, 2011. The resolutions of WHO and ILO in 2005 and 2006 have called for the elimination of asbestos.

In India, mining of asbestos is technically banned but its import from other countries is yet to be banned. Trade in asbestos (dust & fibers) is also banned.

The shady designs of the UAL company against the villagers and protesters to protect its hazardous plant at the cost of villagers’ health was condemned by the speakers who spoke at the demonstration. In a dubious move, the UAL has filed case no. 252/2012, 509/2012 and
510/2012 to silence the voice of public interest persons. This appears to be done to trap villagers into concocted cases as part of company’s design to malign the movement of the KBJBJC. The memorandum sought the withdrawal of three fake cases lodged in Mahua Thana, Vaihsali.

Asbestos Virodhi Nagrik Manch, Patna and left and socialist parties participated in the demonstration on January 16, 2012 to express solidarity with the villagers struggle against the asbestos based factory of Utkal Asbestos Limited.

Now that the construction of asbestos based factory in Vaishali is all set to be permanently stopped, the issue of three asbestos plants in Bhojpur’s Giddha and Bihiya will come to the forefront where protest has been going on for more than 2 years. Notably, the Giddha plant is situated behind a B Ed College. The villagers are protesting against this plant. In Bihiya, Tamil Nadu based Ramco Industries is operating two asbestos plants amidst protests from villagers. Memorandum has been submitted to the District administration in this regard.

The memorandum to the Chief Minister demanded white asbestos based plants should be closed in public interest keeping public health in mind and dismissal of fake case registered by Utkal Management.

For Details: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 08002263335 (Patna), 9818089660 (Delhi)

Ajit Kr Singh, Khet Bachao Jeevan Bachao Jan Sangharsh Committee (KBJBJC), Vaishali, Mb: 08002903995, E-mail:ajeetsinghpushkar@gmail.com

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