Press Release: Prime Minister should ensure that Indian govt officials do not get subordinated by asbestos industry at UN meet underway in Geneva

Posted on May 14, 2015

india-flagUN Meet on hazardous substances concludes on May 15

Making India rife with asbestos related diseases, a sad legacy for
Make in India slogan

Indian opposition to listing of white chrysotile asbestos in UN
hazardous substances list would be contrary to its domestic laws and

Opposition to listing of white chrysotile asbestos in UN hazardous
substances list untenable, unscientific, unsound, unsustainable,
unacceptable and unpardonable

May 14, 2015: ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) appeals to the Prime Minister
Narendra Modi to ensure that Indian government officials do not get
subordinated by representatives of Asbestos Cement Product
Manufacturers Association (ACPMA), a cartel of some 18 companies and
its international allies for the fifth time at the Seventh Conference
of UN’s Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure
for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade
(CoP-7) in deciding to get white chrysotile asbestos listed under UN
list of hazardous substances. Contrary to the misinformation campaign
and propaganda war unleashed by asbestos producing countries like
Russia and Kazakhstan, mere listing of white asbestos chrysotile does
not constitute a trade ban. Indian delegation should be directed to
act with the knowledge that listing it under the Convention does not
constitute a trade ban on white chrysotile asbestos.

Under the influence of white chrysotile asbestos producing countries
like Russia, if India opposes listing of white chrysotile asbestos in
UN list would be in blatant violation of its domestic laws and
regulations like Factories Act, 1948. In short, if Government of India
takes such position, it will be deemed untenable, unscientific,
unsound, unsustainable, unacceptable and unpardonable for all times to
come among the comity of nations and amidst own people. Indian
delegation should pay heed to the resolutions and recommendations of
World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour
Organization (ILO) instead of allowing itself to be hijacked by
accompanying members of ACPMA. It will be a shame if the Indian
delegation betrays the cause of public health and national interest to
safeguard the interest of the ACPMA.

Indian delegation should re-adopt its 2011 position on white
chrysotile asbestos when Mira Mehrshi led the Indian delegation and
resisted the influence and presence of asbestos industry lobby amidst
standing ovation. It is hoped that Shashi Shekhar, the head of
Hazardous Substances Management Division, MoEF, Government of India
will restore India’s prestige by re-adopting a scientifically and
legally defensible position. Shashi Shekhar who also heads the
Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)’s INVENTORY OF HAZARDOUS
CHEMICALS IMPORT IN INDIA prepared by CPCB, under Union Ministry of
Environment & Forests, Government of India that lists ‘asbestos’ at
serial no. 26 as one of the 180 hazardous chemicals in international
trade which is imported in India.

Under Factories Act, 1948, the List of 29 industries involving
hazardous processes is given under Section 2 (cb), Schedule First,
asbestos is mentioned at serial no. 24. The Act defines “hazardous
process” as “any process or activity in relation to an industry
specified in the First Schedule where, unless special care is taken,
raw materials used therein or the intermediate or finished products,
bye-products, wastes or effluents thereof would–(i) cause material
impairment to the health of the persons engaged in or connected
therewith, or (ii) result in the pollution of the general
environment”. This leaves no doubt that asbestos is a hazardous
The Act is available at:,%201948.pdf

A letter of B N Mehta, the then Chief Inspector of Factories, Gujarat
State dated December 24th, 2002 submitted in the Hon’ble Supreme Court
categorically reveals that two workers of Gujarat Composites Ltd were
confirmed for Asbestosis, an incurable lung disease by National
Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH), Ahmedabad. The workers were
(1) Shri Hazarilal Manraj and (2) Shri Sahejram B Yadav. The letter
recommended compensation of Rs 1 lakh as per the Hon’ble Court’s order
but till date the same has not been given. This establishes the
hazardous nature of asbestos. The letter is available at

It must be recalled that on June 22, 2011 Indian delegation led by Ms.
Mira Mehrishi, Additional Secretary, had supported the listing
ofChrysotile asbestos as a hazardous chemical substance at the fifth
conference on Rotterdam Convention (COP-5) amidst standing ovation.
Not surprisingly, Mira Mehrishi’s reputation remains impeccable with
unblemished track record.

For a government which has adopted the slogan of “Make in India”,
endorsement of asbestos like products would be a glaring taint because
it ends up making India with the blood money of white chrysotile
asbestos manufacturers. It will tarnish its image by end up making
India rife with asbestos related diseases, a sad legacy for slogan
Make in India.

It tantamounts to sacrificing public health in order to support the
ideology of naked lust for profit espoused by unscrupulous white
chrysotile asbestos companies at any human cost. In effect, India
would be seen taking an irrational position arguing that it does not
wish to be informed about the hazardous nature of substances it
imports and does not wish to inform about it to the countries which
export asbestos based goods from India. This also means that India is
becoming complicit in the violation of human rights by knowingly doing
business in hazardous substances like white chrysotile asbestos as per
its own law.

It is hoped even at this late stage that India will disassociate
itself from the influence of white chrysotile asbestos producing
companies and countries after examining the finding of the Contact
Group set up by the President of the Conference of the Parties to
achieve a consensus to list while chrysotile asbestos in the UN’s
Prior Informed Consent (PIC) list-Annex III of the Rotterdam
Convention. Chemical Review Committee (CRC) of the Convention has
recommended its listing in view of compelling scientific and medical

It is noteworthy that when the attached joint letter dated May 3, 2015
was sent to Prakash Javdekar, Union Minister of Environment, Forests &
Climate Change and Ananth Kumar, Union Minister of Chemicals and
Fertilizers, the former responded with alacrity and put his
acknowledgement of reasons for disassociating with asbestos producing
countries like Russia on record. The fact remains Union Minister of
Chemicals and Fertilizers did not respond although Ministry of
Chemicals and Fertilizers is the Focal Point for Rotterdam Convention.
It is also a fact that Indian delegation was misled in 2013 by an
irrelevant and conflict of interest ridden note of this very Ministry.
Notably, Indian delegation was joined by supporters of asbestos
industry in 2013. It is quite apparent that the industry
representatives overwhelmed the government representatives who were
made to take position against human health and the environment and to
put profit of the asbestos industry before gnawing public health

When ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) had confronted MoEF with domestic laws
in 2013, the officials from MoEF expressed helplessness as they were
bound by the attached note of the Ministry of Chemicals and
Fertilizers. Hopefully, the structural compulsions of
inter-ministerial coordination will be overcome this time to outwit
the designs of ACPMA to subjugate the Indian delegation to its whims
in fancies.

Notably, India’s National Human Rights Commission is deeply concerned
about the issue and is seized with case dealing with deaths and
diseases caused by exposure asbestos fibers.

Indian history remembers such examples of notorious, timid, weak,
pliable, gullible and docile individuals with unfailing memory. It’s
a conflict between truth and profit. A poison is a poison. A
hazardous substance will remain a hazardous substance irrespective the
outcome of the UN meeting that concludes on May 15, 2015 but the
Indian delegation will stand exposed for compromising India’s stature
and its scientific reputation.

White chrysotile asbestos is banned in over 50 countries because it’s
safe and controlled use is impossible. In countries like India there
is almost no health infrastructure to even diagnose the incurable
diseases caused by exposure to its fibers. There is lack of lab
facilities which can detect its presence in buildings and products in
a situation where there is not a single building India which can claim
to be asbestos free. It’s listing in the UN list merely a preliminary
preventive step.

For Details: Gopal Krishna, Ban Asbestos Network of India-ToxicsWatch
Alliance (TWA), Mb: 08227816731, 09818089660,, Web:

Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)
ToxicsWatch Alliance
New Delhi
Mb: 07739308480, 09818089660
Skype id: witnesskrishna

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