Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Belgian report alleges MNC Etex responsible for asbestos pollution in Madhya Pradesh town Kymore: COP's Geneva meet

By Our Representative
A comprehensive Belgian report has held MNC Etex, into construction business and one of the richest, responsible for asbestos pollution in Kymore, an industrial town in in Katni district of Madhya Pradesh. The report provides evidence from the ground on how Kymore’s dust even today is “annoying… it creeps into your clothes, you have to cough it”, saying “It can be deadly.”
While Etex, which owned 50% of an asbestos manufacturing facility in Kymore, left in 2001, even today, the report, which provides of photographs of those who have being suffering from asbestosis and cancer, claims, “the soil is full of asbestos”, as asbestos here was “freely dumped” around the town “with disastrous consequences for humans and the environment.”
The report comes ahead of the international Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Rotterdam Convention, to be held between April 25 and May 4 at Geneva, where India is to participate. Already, Occupational & Environmental Health Network India (OEHNI) convener Jagdish Patel has asked Union minister for environment and forests Anil Madhav Dave to "support" including chrysotile asbestos” at COP in the banned list.
Citing a Canadian research by ECOH, the Belgian report insists, “Kymore seems to be built of asbestos. It is incorporated in school, playgrounds, the corrugated iron roofs of the houses of the factory workers. Many of these buildings are in bad shape and crumble. Moreover, the asbestos waste was dumped for years on meadows around the factory and unsafe landfill, even during the period of the Belgian Etex, which was later turned into Eternit Everest Ltd.”
Providing testimonies of people who live in the contaminated area, the report quotes one of the researchers, John Lewis, to say that there was “a significant part of the visible asbestos waste in the period 1996-1997." Quoting Central Pollution Control Board sources, the report states, it too has admitted that “the asbestos factory waste polluted the environment.”
“The researchers took 16 soil samples, 14 of which contained traces of asbestos, some up to 70 per cent. They estimate that about 565,000 square meters of soil is contaminated on the surface with asbestos, and 7,000 to 8,000 people are exposed to it. In most places, the asbestos waste is visible to the naked eye”, the report states.
Pointing out that “more than 20,000 inhabitants of Kymore, especially the poorest, are hardly aware of the health risks they run”, the report states, “The local government and the successive owners have hardly anything done to inform workers and the public”.
Quoting a local lawyer, Tublu Mukherjee, the report says, “Local hospitals do not have the tools to make the right diagnosis and until recently no figures were available for those suffering from asbestos-related disease or who have died to it.”
Things came to the surface in 2012 when a Mumbai-based physician “began with the diagnosis of workers outside Kymore”, the report says. 
It adds, currently, Mukherjee is in the process of preparing documents against the Belgian firm to demand “compensate tens of millions” to those who have suffered from pollution.
The report states, “In 2004, the Flemish waste company OVAM started the remediation of the contaminated lots. Today OVAM has culled more than 125,000 tons of asbestos at more than 900 plots. Nearly 150 plots are still await reorganization." 
Lawyer Mukherjee
According to the report, "This is a preliminary figure because no one knows exactly where all the production waste is spilled.”
Etex is no longer active in India, which makes it easier to ignore an appeal for the court in that country, the report says. 
It adds, this is one of the major reasons why lawyer Mukherjee considering to go in for a collective claim before a Belgian court, in which "he wants to defend all victims together."

No comments: