Thursday, 14 May 2015

Rotterdam Convention COP 7 (May 13th 2015). ROCA /WECF Side Event on “Chrysotile Asbestos and the question: Who pays the Bill?”

More than 70 people attended a successful, informative and emotional Side Event at COP 7 in Geneva
Testimonials and Dialogue

The ROCA/WECF Side event “Chrysotile Asbestos and the question: Who pays the Bill?” with its testimonials of victims who suffer from lifelong health effects from the exposure to chrysotile asbestos showed once more the urgent need to listing chrysotile asbestos to Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention. The event, attended by more than 70 people, was a real contrast to the numerous interventions of Parties in the morning plenary of COP7, opposing the listing of chrysotile asbestos by disseminating the claim that they are not aware of any health impacts resulting from the exposure to asbestos.

 The event was accompanied by a key note message from Elizabet Paunovic, head of WHO European Centre of Health and Environment, calling all Parties of the COP finally to take responsibility and vote for listing. ROCA/WECF screened WHO’s new film “Chrysotile Asbestos – Voices from South-East-Asia” which makes the voices of asbestos victims heard. A highlight was the presence of the Indian worker Sharad Vittnal Sawant, who pleaded for listing of the substance. He and his wife suffer, after working with chrysotile asbestos for 40 years, from asbestosis and made the audience to witnesses of what kind of incredible impact chrysotile asbestos has and who in reality has to pay the bill.
The panel of speakers consisted of Tran Tuan from the Vietnam Research and Training Centre for Community development, South Korean activist and researcher Yeyong Choi, and Sanjiv Pandita from the Asia Monitor Resource Center. The presentation of Tran Tuan pointed out that action by Civil Society could move things forward in a positive way and very fast, like the Vietnam example is showing. Yeyong Choi delivered insights on how the asbestos industry shifts their production to countries with less strict regulation, and this effects workers and residents in the factories neighborhood. Sanjiv Pandita pointed out how important objective medical investigations are to make sure asbestos related diseases like cancer, asbestosis get know as this.

 The side event was organized by the Rotterdam Convention Alliance (ROCA) and was facilitated by  Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF). The WECF's Johanna Hausmann chaired the session, a taxing job not made any easier by the boorish behaviour of Russian Chrysotile trade Union representatives who tried to interrupt the proceedings on more than one occasion. They accused WHO being a propaganda organization due to the fact WHO is supporting movies such as the one screened in the side event which shows the real impacts of chrysotile asbestos.

The panelists and many speakers from the plenary, such as representatives from WHO, ILO, victim action networks, trade unions etc. attending the side event were in agreement regarding the crucial importance of listing chrysotile asbestos on Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention; they called on delegates to make every effort to resolve the current impasse over chrysotile in order to protect human health.

WECF / ROCA intervention at COP7 of Rotterdam Convention

Mr President, thank you for giving us the floor, I speak on behalf of WECF as a member of the Rotterdam Convention Alliance. 
(held by Alexandra Caterbow)

Distinguished delegates, the objective of the Rotterdam Convention is to protect health and the environment.

Instead we are witnessing blocking of chrysotile asbestos for the fifth time, to protect industry interests instead of protecting health and environment. We see a very active industry here, but we also recognize that this industry is a dying one. So many countries are thinking about banning chrysotile asbestos now, since without listing, the Rotterdam Convention does not allow them to access their right of prior informed consent and to protect their borders.

The listing was not supported because there is a problem of science, nor a problem of meeting the criteria of the convention, but a problem of lack of political will.
We see that there are countries, that are quite new parties to the convention, who are using their status to block the convention - this is shameful. Some of the blocking countries committed at the Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health in Italy to eliminate all asbestos related diseases and now they want to prevent other countries to access their right on prior informed consent.

Those opposing the listing of chrysotile asbestos, state that listing would cause extra costs. This argument is wrong, as it omits the enormous health and economic costs caused by chrysotile asbestos, which is already up in the hundreds of billions of dollars. While industry takes the profits, the cost is put on the shoulders of the public taxpayer and the hundreds of thousands sick victims.

We strongly urge Parties to continue efforts towards listing of chrysotile asbestos, including inter-sessional work and in cooperation with civil society.

I would like to invite you to our side event in room 3 during lunch time today. And I would like to introduce you now to Mr SHARAD VITTNAL SAWANT, a chrysotile asbestos victim from India. He came here to speak to you all, because you are the ones who can make a huge difference this week.

Thank you

Mr Sawant:
I am SHARAD VITTNAL SAWANT; I come from Bombay, India, I have worked for 40 years at the factory Hindustan Ferodo (now Hindustan Composits), which uses chrysotile asbestos. I am suffering from asbestosis and my wife as well. Another 400 of my colleagues have been diagnosed as well. I came here to request you to put chrysotile asbestos in the PIC List of the Rotterdam Convention.

NGO colleagues are standing in solidarity behind Mr Sawant 

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

ROCA Position Paper COP 7 in Russian

Position Paper

In preparation to the COP 7 of the Rotterdam Convention in May 2015, we would like to present the Position Paper of the Rotterdam Convention Alliance.

ROCA Position Paper COP 7 in English

Position Paper

In preparation to the COP 7 of the Rotterdam Convention in May 2015, we would like to present the Position Paper of the Rotterdam Convention Alliance.


In preparation to the COP 7 of the Rotterdam Convention in May 2015, we would like to present the FAQ Paper on Chrysotile and Rotterdam Convention Alliance.

Expose of the sabotage of the Rotterdam Convention

The Rotterdam Convention conference is all about Russia and Kazakhstan
Kathleen Ruff,
In 2013, almost a million tonnes of asbestos was exported by a tiny number of asbestos mining countries.
  •  Just two countries – Russia and Kazakhstan – were responsible for 80% of global asbestos export.
  • Russia on its own was responsible for close to two thirds of total global asbestos export.
What this means is that the attack on the Rotterdam Convention to prevent chrysotile asbestos being listed as a hazardous substance is really all about Russia and Kazakhstan. They are sabotaging the Convention because they want to continue practicing irresponsible trade and to export chrysotile asbestos with no safety warnings required.
Protecting profits, not people’s lives, is their mission.
Brazil, which exported 125,832 tonnes of asbestos in 2013, has not to date ever opposed the listing of chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous substance.
For more please click here.

One in three Europeans potentially exposed to asbestos, new UN study shows

30 April 2015 – A high-level meeting on environment and health in Europe today appealed urgently to all European countries to eliminate asbestos-related diseases, as a new United Nations report showed that one third of the 900 million people living in the region are potentially exposed to asbestos at work and in the environment.
“We cannot afford losing almost 15,000 lives a year in Europe, especially workers, from diseases caused by exposure to asbestos,” Dr. Zsuzsanna Jakab, the World Health Organization’s Regional Director for Europe was quoted as saying in a press release issued in Haifa, Israel, where more than 200 delegates met from 28-30 April to evaluate progress on environment and health in Europe.
“Every death from asbestos-related diseases is avoidable,” Dr. Jakab said. “We urge all countries to leave the Haifa meeting to fulfil their 2010 commitment and develop policies by the end of this year that will eliminate asbestos-related diseases from the face of Europe.”
“There is very little time left for that,” she said.
Elimination of asbestos-related diseases was one of the major issues discussed at the Haifa meeting, according to WHO.
For more please click here.

Video Message to President Obama, Legislative Updates, and Events from the AFL-CIO, U.S. Senate, and Community

Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO)

The ADAO message to the 2015 delegates is: “ADAO urges the Rotterdam Convention delegates to list chrysotile asbestos on the PIC List now. Everyone has the right to safe water, soil, and air free from hazardous chemicals. The life you save may be your own.”

This year's International Asbestos Awareness conference marked 11 years of progress towards an asbestos-ban while highlighting monumental strides in global asbestos awareness and prevention. With Nearly 40 expert presenters from nine countries, the weekend served as an incredible educational resource, discussion forum, and starting point for future collaborations.
Video message: Experts from Five Countries Urge President Obama to Ban Asbestos.

For more please click here.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Indian Environment Minister takes "note" of reasons for India disassociating itself from Russia & other white chrysotile asbestos producers at UN Meet

Seventh Conference of Parties (CoP 7) of UN's Rotterdam Convention commences in Geneva from today 

May 4, 2015: In a remarkable move India's Minister of Environment Forests & Climate Change ( MoEFCC), Prakash Javadekar has communicated today that he has "noted", the contents of the letter addressed to him in the context of Seventh Conference of Parties (CoP 7) of UN's Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade  ahead of the commencement of CoP 7 in Geneva.In the letter it has been argued as to why India must disassociate itself from Russia & other white chrysotile asbestos producers at CoP 7 in Geneva. The letter from ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) dated May 3, 2015 is attached and pasted below. CoP is underway in Switzerland from 4th May to 15th May 2015. 

The minister has communicated the same to Shri Shashi Shekhar, Special Secretary, Chairman, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Union Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change who responsible for Hazardous Substances Management Division and international negotiations in the ministry. The minister's response within hours of having received the letter underlines the seriousness with which he is involved in the matter.     

The text of the Rotterdam Convention was adopted by the Conference of the Plenipotentiaries (Rotterdam, 10 September 1998). The text was subsequently amended by the First Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (Geneva, 20 - 24 September 2004), the Fourth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (Rome, 27 – 31 October 2008), the Fifth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (Geneva, 20 - 24 June 2011) and the Sixth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (Geneva, 28 April – 10 May 2013).  There are 72 Signatories and 154 Parties to the Convention. India gave its consent for Accession to the Convention on 24th May, 2005.  

To achieve its objectives the Convention includes two key provisions, namely the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure and Information Exchange. The PIC procedure is a mechanism for formally obtaining and disseminating the decisions of importing Parties as to whether they wish to receive future shipments of those chemicals listed in Annex III of the Convention and for ensuring compliance with these decisions by exporting Parties. The Convention facilitates information exchange among Parties for a very broad range of potentially hazardous chemicals. The Convention requires each Party to notify the Secretariat when taking a domestic regulatory action to ban or severely restrict a chemical.

The Conference of the Parties oversees the operation of the Convention and makes decisions regarding amendments to the Convention, including the addition of chemicals to Annex III.  

The purpose of the Convention is to promote responsible trade. Indian delegation should be advised to:
  • to support responsible trade
  • to support the recommendation of the Convention's scientific committee (the Chemical Review Committee) to list chrysotile asbestos
  • to support the purpose of the Convention, which is to provide the right to Prior Informed Consent, based on the recommendations of the Convention's scientific committee 

The Chemical Review Committee is a subsidiary body of the COP. Its members are government designated experts in chemicals management. Its responsibilities include reviewing notifications and proposals from Parties, and making recommendations to the COP on the addition of chemicals to Annex III.

The Convention is based on a process under which the Chemical Review Committee examines the evidence before recommending whether a substance should be put on the Convention's list of hazardous substances. Some countries like Russia who are promoting transfer of harm to countries like ours due to their incestuous relationship with the asbestos industry are rejecting the scientific process and refusing to act as per the recommendation of the scientific committee in the matter of white chrysotile asbestos.

Taking cognisance of Hon'ble Supreme Court’s judgment dated 27th January, 1995, the Ministry of Environment of Forests came out with its 19 page long Vision Statement on Environment and Human Health (Para 4.3.1) wherein it is stated: “Alternatives to asbestos may be used to the extent possible and use of asbestos may be phased out” on page no. 12 This is available on its website. Source:
In a concept paper Union Ministry of Labour disclosed at the two-day 5th India-EU Joint Seminar on “Occupational Safety and Health” on 19-20th September, 2011 that "The Government of India is
considering the ban on use of chrysotile asbestos in India to protect the workers and the general population against primary and secondary exposure to Chrysotile form of Asbestos." It has noted that
"Asbestosis is yet another occupational disease of the Lungs which is on an increase under similar circumstances warranting concerted efforts of all stake holders to evolve strategies to curb this
menace". The document is readily available at

In a notice dated December 24, 2014, Hon’ble National Human Rights Commission has asked the Ministry of Labour regarding steps taken in pursuance of its concept paper.

Notably, US Environment Protection Agency says, “No safe exposure threshold (with respect to for inhaling asbestos fibers) has been established, but the risk of disease generally increases with
the length and amount of exposure.”
Source :
The same is reiterated by World Health Organization (WHO) at

It is noteworthy that in a recent inter-ministerial meeting held last month, MoEFCC took a position which was quite sensitive to enviro-occupational health in the matter of hazardous ship breaking industry. The migrant workers in this industry are admittedly exposed to hazardous and carcinogenic substances like asbestos fibers. In the light of these reasons, there is a compelling logic for MoEFCC to disassociate itself from Russia.

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

Asbestos industry lobbyists will go to Geneva to sabotage Rotterdam Convention

Kathleen Ruff,

Two dozen asbestos industry lobbyists will be attending the Rotterdam Convention conference in Geneva this month to seek to prevent chrysotile asbestos from being put on the Convention’s list of hazardous substances.

Read more here:

NGO calls for blanket ban on import of asbestos by Centre, state govt

 dna correspondent @dnaahmedabad

Ahmedabad: Days before an international convention scheduled in Rotterdam takes up the issue of health hazards of asbestos, a Gujarat-based non-governmental organization has demanded that the central government put a blanket ban on the import of asbestos.
The Occupational Health and Safety Association (OHSA) pressed for a blanket ban, saying asbestos is a killer product and has been banned by more than 55 nations across the world.
The Gujarat Cancer and Research Center has confirmed that 108 asbestos-based cancer patients have received treatment at the center between 2008 and 2014.
OHSA’s Jagdish Patel alleged that the central government as well as the state government have been insensitive to the issue and do not care for the health of workers. Patel said the Indian government should announce at the Rotterdam convention on May 8 that it is going to ban asbestos import and that it will not support exporters of asbestos.
Raghunath Manvar, another OHSA activist, said many infected workers fight till the last for compensation as there is no guarantee that they will get it. There are cases, he said, where the ESI has not released compensation amounts even after the courts have ordered and that the orders have often been challenged, making workers’ lives miserable.

Jagdish Patel
Peoples Training And Research Centre
43,Srinathdham Duplex,
Dinesh Mill -Urmi Rd
Gujarat, INDIA
Ph: +91- 0265- 2345576 (R)
M-94264 86855