International experts at the Second Asian Ban Asbestos Network Conference here Monday highlighted the dangers of exposure to asbestos and the plight of thousands of labourers suffering from occupational and environmental health problems as a result of working in asbestos mines before its mining was banned in certain areas.
Jaipur took the centre stage of the Global Ban Asbestos Movement though the conference, which was inaugurated by Furuya Sugio, secretary general of the Japan Occupation Safety and Health Resource Centre.
The two-day event has been organized jointly by the Asian Ban Asbestos Network (ABAN), International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS), the Occupational and Environmental Health Network of India (OEHNI) and Mine Labour Protection Campaign (MLPC) based in Jodhpur.
Over 70 people, including asbestos victims, doctors, lawyers, experts and other activists from more than 15 countries are attending the conference. They will also make a field visit to some of the stone manipulation factories around Jaipur on Nov 16.
Experts addressing various technical sessions at the event said asbestos has left a trail of death and destruction in the countries which mined and used it and continues to kill in countries that have banned its use due to past exposure.
It has been classified as a known carcinogen by the World Health Organization (WHO) and despite being banned in more than 55 countries, many countries in Asia continue to use it exposing millions of workers, their families and surrounding communities to known risks.
According to trade estimates, India has the infamous distinction of being the world’s largest importer of asbestos. Annual asbestos consumption continues to grow in India and the country has used over 7 million tonnes of asbestos so far.
Sugio, inaugurating the conference, pitched for a comprehensive ban on asbestos in Asia and said achieving justice for the victims who have been affected by this deadly substance is equally significant.
He shed light on the work undertaken by the ABAN which was established two years ago in Hong Kong as an umbrella group of Asian organizations.
“Environmental activists in Asia expect India to impose a complete ban on the use of asbestos and stop its import in view of its disastrous and lethal effects on the human body,” said Sugio, interacting with media persons after the inaugural session.
He affirmed that alternatives to the use of asbestos in construction, insulation and other industrial applications could be evolved through scientific research, which he said, should be encouraged.
Two asbestos victims, Rachel Lee from Korea and Ram Lal from Jhadole block of Udaipur district in Rajasthan, made moving speeches on their plight.
They said that would like a complete ban on asbestos to save the humanity from deadly diseases such as asbestosis and cancer.