A letter from the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Toxics on reports of asbestos dumping has had no response from the Indian Government
Specialist asbestos lawyer Harminder Bains, from law firm Leigh Day, has expressed her dismay at the lack of response from the Indian Government to a letter sent by the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and toxics (hazardous substances and wastes), Baskut Tuncak.
The letter, sent on 1st March this year, outlines reports received by the UN concerning potential human rights abuses of Indian workers at an asbestos fibre cement factory exposed to the deadly material. The factory is partly owned by Belgium-based company ETEX/Eternit.
Reports have also focused on the dumping of asbestos waste in the village of Kymore, Madhya Pradesh, India.
Whilst the Belgian Government has developed a compensation programme for people exposed to asbestos in Belgium, little has been done to compensate workers in other countries who have been exposed to asbestos fibres and who have developed asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.
Workers at the Kymore factory and their family members have reported that they are suffering from asbestos-related diseases. Children in the area are at risk of exposure to asbestos fibres from playing fields under which asbestos waste lies.
The Special Rapporteur is deeply concerned about the risks to workers’ health and breaches of their human rights if the reports are confirmed.
Mr Tuncak also states his concern about the lack of health related data of the negative health effects of asbestos, and the lack of adequate medical centres to diagnose and treat asbestos-related diseases in India.
The letter asks the Indian Government to respond to these concerns in detail.
To date, the Special Rapporteur has received no response from the Indian Government.
Harminder Bains, from the industrial diseases team at Leigh Day, said:
“Many countries continue to process and use asbestos. From these activities, whole communities have become heavily contaminated by asbestos waste. Thousands of people have been exposed to this toxic substance and work and live with little protections from its lethal consequences.
“While workers in Europe are able to claim compensation after being exposed to asbestos, people who live in other countries are not offered the same protection.
“Asbestos production factories, run by companies based in Europe, are still in use in India and Africa where health and safety standards do not match those offered at within the EU.
“I urge the Indian Government to respond to the concerns set out in the letter from the UN Special Rapporteur as quickly as possible.”