Stop The Subsidy To Asbestos Mining Industry And Health Disaster
By Gopal Krishna
20 June, 2010
Mr Pierre Arcand
Minister of International Relations
Québec Government Office in Mumbai
Consulate General of Canada
6th floor Fort House
221, Dr. D.N. Road
Mumbai – 400 001
Phone : 91-22-6749-4444
Fax : 91-22-6749-4454
Sub-Stop the subsidy to asbestos mining industry & health disaster
Dear Mr Pierre Arcand,
The purpose of this letter is to protest against the Quebec government (Canada) which is all set to provide a large subsidy to save the asbestos mining industry in Canada unmindful of its health consequences in developing countries like India. We are aware that Quebec has only one asbestos mine left, which is nearly exhausted and employs 340. The asbestos cement sheeting industry is growing at a healthy 10-12 per cent a year in India.
We are deeply saddened and disturbed by Quebec government's double standard on asbestos trade which illustrates Canada's utter callousness towards human rights of asbestos workers and consumers in India. It is unbecoming of Canada to put profits before people unmindful of incurable diseases and preventable deaths .
It is deeply immoral to support an industrial activity which is leading to yet another industrial disaster due to criminal corporate negligence and governmental patronage.
Canada exports the cancer causing fiber to India but prefers not to use it domestically. In India, 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.
I am writing to you on behalf of Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI), which is working to make India asbestos free to save workers and citizens from cancer causing fibers of death.
In the face massive asbestos exposure underway in India, the recent ban on asbestos laden US ship, The White Asbestos (Ban on Use and Import) Bill, 2009 introduced in Rajya Sabha (Upper House) and the ban asbestos order of the Kerala State Human Rights Commission , environment, labour, human rights and health groups appeal to the Prime Minister and to all the parliamentarians to ensure that manufacture, use and trade of asbestos is banned in India. Details of the bill here.
The chrysotile asbestos (white asbestos) industry is acting as merchants of death even as workers and consumers are routinely being exposed to deadly asbestos fibers. Notably, worker protections and enviro-occupational health infrastructure are weak or non-existent in India. The silence of the government in the face of workers and consumers who are sick and dying from asbestos-caused cancer is deafening. The Indian parliament and Canadian House of Commons must act to stop the governments from protecting the companies that knowingly commit corporate crimes as is the case with the asbestos industry which is hiding behind manifest immoral patronage of the governments.It is noteworthy that a US corporation Dow Chemicals Company which is liable for Union Carbide Corporation's legacy issues such as Bhopal's industrial disaster, held itself liable for asbestos issues and put aside $2.2 billion as “potential cost of resolving pending and future claims against Carbide”, such corporate crimes have become the order of the day because of government's connivance.
We appreciate the civil society in Canada that has called for the, end of asbestos mining, consistent with the position of the World Health Organization (WHO) and over 50 countries that have banned asbestos. A letter addressed to Premier Charest, and jointly endorsed by numerous organizations, was handed over.
We have called upon Prime Minister of India and Quebec's Premier to stand up to the powerful asbestos industry in both countries which is spending millions of dollars to intimidate and silence workers, doctors, scientists and activists who are all for banning asbestos. Victims of asbestos related diseases, who are dying a slow death with no legal and medical remedy in sight.
We understand that if the new mining operation opens, it will export asbestos to poor countries for the next 25 years. The Quebec propaganda machine using Canadian embassies has consistently worked to thwart public health efforts around the world by promoting killer fibers of Canadian asbestos. Earlier on March 23, 2010 Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper deemed it fit to give $250,000 of taxpayer money to the Chrysotile Institute (formerly called the Asbestos Institute), a group that promotes the use of asbestos in developing countries. Parliamentary Standing Committee on Natural Resources meeting on 22 March dealt with the $250,000 funding for the Chrysotile Institute.
The Economic Development Agency of Canada and the Department of Natural Resources have given the Chrysotile Institute (formerly called the Asbestos Institute) more than $20 million over the past 25 years. In February 2008, Harper government had announced gnt of $750,000 to the Chrysotile Institute for the next three years. We are shocked to note that your government is feigning ignorance about WHO estimates at least 100,000 deaths from asbestos every year and the total may eventually be 5-10 million.
Public health researchers are deeply concerned about the alarming rate of consumption. In 2008, the use of 348,538 tonnes of asbestos made India the world's 3rd largest asbestos market; since 2004, consumption has risen by 83%. Cumulative asbestos usage in India has been estimated at 7,343,612 tonnes. In the UK consumption of 6 million tonnes has produced the country's worst epidemic of occupational disease and death. The condition in India due to asbestos is already an unacknowledged public health disaster with no medical infrastructure to deal with such enviro-occupational diseases.
The safe use of any form of asbestos is “impossible anywhere in the world”.
On behalf of BANI, we appeal to your government and Canadian government through you to adopt safer alternatives of fibers of death instead of promoting it.
Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)-ToxicsWatch Alliance
Prime Minister of Canada
Prime Minister of India
Premier of Quebec
Union Environment & Forests Minister
Union Ministry of Mines
Union Commerce Ministry
Union Finance Ministry
Union Chemicals Ministry
Cabinet Secretary, Government of India
Union Environment Secretary