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Asbestos mining: NGT raps MoEF for vague response

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New Delhi: Perturbed by illegal and unscientific asbestos mining across the country, the National Green Tribunal Friday pulled up the Environment Ministry (MoEF) for providing a “vague and uncertain” response.

A bench, headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar, made the observation after going through an affidavit filed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests(MoEF) and fixed the matter for further consideration on December 23.

“None of the affidavits is specific as to what steps have been taken by the Ministry of Environment and Forests or any other authority of the State to answer a question as to whether any asbestos mining was being carried on in any part of the State or not. Affidavit filed by the MoEF is vague and uncertain.

“It is undisputable that asbestos mining activity is considered hazardous and causes serious environmental and health hazard including dangerous diseases like cancer etc. We are constrained to observe that concerned Ministry and appropriate authorities of the state are expected to exercise their power to prevent and control degradation of environment and harm to public health,” the bench said. Read more

Courtesy: Zee News

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Rajasthan model to compensate ailing miners

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JAIPUR: Call it a mere coincidence or another feather in the state’s cap, but Rajasthan, one of the states plagued most by mining, has quietly thrown up a unique model to compensate mine workers afflicted with silicosis and other life threatening diseases. This comes at a time when most states are groping in the dark to trying to prove identities of mine workers mainly due to the lack of documents.

Rajasthan has so far given compensation to the tune of Rs 1.43 crore to 71 victims of silicosis and Rs 16 lakh to 16 victims of asbestosis. Of this, 8 received Rs 3 lakh each and 16 received Rs 1 lakh each in Karauli district while 28 received Rs 3 lakh each and 19 received Rs 1 lakh each in Jodhpur district. The 16 asbestosis patients in Udaipur received Rs 1 lakh each.

Much hard work and many meetings with senior state government officials later we have managed to craft out a unique model for compensating mine workers afflicted with life threatening disease. The absence of documentation makes difficult for doling out compensations as there is none to be blamed on the other side of the table,” says Rana Sengupta, CEO, Mine Labour Protection Campaign (MLPC), which has been working for the cause.

In fact, MLPC will be hold a consultation on Friday to share the model so that other states benefit out of it.

A multi-level system of diagnosis and compensation under the National Human Right Commission’s directives was set up. In this, a high level inter-departmental committee under the chairmanship of the chief secretary was constituted to specifically look into mineworkers’ health, prevention and diagnosis of occupation-related diseases,” he says. Read more

Courtesy: THE TIMES OF INDIA

The Curse of Asbestos

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by Eliane Brum

Victims launch an international offensive to revoke the titles and awards of billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny, former owner of the Swiss Eternit Group. In Brazil, they are focusing on the Order of the Southern Cross, granted to him by President Fernando Henrique Cardoso

If it is up to asbestos victims, 2014 may be the worst year in the life of Swiss billionaire Stephan Schmidheiny. They are getting ready to open another front in the struggle to ban the carcinogenic fiber. This time, they are looking at something perhaps more valuable than the actual fortune of the businessman whose family founded the Swiss Eternit Group. Throughout the 20th century, the industrial group planted factories around the world and through them sowed fatal diseases such as asbestosis (known as “stone lung”) and mesothelioma (the so-called “asbestos cancer”). Now, the target of patients and their families is the intangible property to which the Swiss [tycoon] devoted much money, battalions of marketers and his greatest efforts: his biography.

In Brazil, lawyers of the Brazilian Association of People Exposed to Asbestos (ABREA) plan to revoke the prestigious Order of the Southern Cross, granted to the Swiss billionaire by then President Fernando Henrique Cardoso in 1996. The offensive is part of an international strategy of asbestos victims, led by Italian representatives. Since last year, the Italian organization AFEVA (Association of Relatives and Victims of Asbestos) has been pressuring Yale University, in the United States, to revoke the honorary doctorate of humane letters also granted to Schmidheiny in 1996. In Venezuela and Costa Rica, similar initiatives are being organized to pressure institutions that have granted him awards. The goal is to revoke one by one the titles and awards cited by the billionaire in his official biography. For each honor there is a group of victims organizing to press for its annulment. “We are not interested in destroying a human being, but in the search for the truth. And the truth is that there is no honor in the conduct of Mr. Schmidheiny,” wrote Bruno Pesce, coordinator of the AFEVA to the Yale University administration.

Stephan Schmidheiny is a tragic character in the contemporary world. For part of humanity he is a villain, for the other part a hero. During the 1990s, he was extremely careful to construct a biography that could erase – or at least obfuscate – his role as protagonist in what is known as “the greatest health catastrophe of the 20th century”: of the tens of thousands of deaths around the world due to asbestos contamination, a significant number occurred within his family’s Swiss Eternit factories or within a few kilometers from them. Read more

Courtesy: International Ban Asbestos Sectretariat

NHRC wants report on asbestos’ health effects

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New Delhi: The National Human Rights Commission has taken cognizance of a complaint alleging that over 50,000 people die every year due to asbestos-related cancer in India and asked all state governments including Delhi to submit their reports on the issue.

The complainant Gopal Krishna of Toxics Watch Alliance has alleged that though mining of asbestos has been technically banned by the government, but it allows its import and that too from countries which do not prefer its domestic use. The complainant has sought NHRC’s intervention for a ban on the use of white asbestos. It is a fibrous material used for building roofs and walls.

Delhi government in its report has said there are three factories in the capital that require handling of asbestos. It said the government maintains health records of all workers at these factories.

Courtesy: TNN