New rules to make State free of asbestos

New rules to make State free of asbestos
New rules to make State free of asbestos

Govt. inserts ‘no use of asbestos’ clause in development plans of 12 regions
The State government has framed new rules to prevent the use of asbestos in manufacturing units following health concerns over the mushrooming asbestos factories in Maharashtra.

The government has inserted a ‘No use of asbestos’ clause in the recently-released development plans (DP) of 12 regions, including some on the outskirts of Mumbai. The clause is part of the regulations specified by the Urban Development Department for 2011-2031 for development of tourism and hospitality services under the regional plans.

‘Setting an example’
Experts have warned of the risk posed by the use of asbestos as there are 2,696 workers employed in 20-odd major manufacturing units in the State. The regional plans cover Thane-Palghar, Wardha, Bhandara, Gondia, Dhule, Nandurbar, Parbhani, Beed, Hingoli, Usmanabad, Yavatmal and Buldhana. Senior government officials said the notification under the Maharashtra Regional & Town Planning Act, 1966, has set an example for the rest of the country.

The move has also been hailed by the National Human Rights Commission and organisations working to end the use of asbestos. An UDD official said, “The notification is part of our initiative to create an environment-friendly tourism infrastructure in the State, especially around sanctuaries and parks.” Officials said the clause has for now only been added to zones around sanctuaries but will be extended to other areas to make Maharashtra an asbestos-free State. Many factories are located near forest and sanctuaries in Mumbai, Pune, Kolhapur, Kalyan, Nashik, Thane and Aurangabad.

According to the World Health Organization guidelines, exposure to asbestos poses increased risks for asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma in a ‘dose-dependent manner’. Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of cancer which develops in internal organs.

Poor record

‘According to experts, the State’s record in addressing health concerns has been poor. In 2008, about 260 workers were surveyed by the State government as part of a drive to assess the impact of asbestos on the health of workers in manufacturing units. A total of 133 cases of asbestosis were confirmed during the drive. However, neither the government nor the Directorate of Industrial Safety & Health have paid compensation to the victims.

A Central government inspection in 2015 revealed that there were 23 asbestos factories employing 2,583 workers in the State. However, the report showed that several factories in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region were not conducting the mandatory membrane filter test to monitor the presence of asbestos fibre in the work environment and awareness training programmes for workers.

Gopal Krishna, an anti-asbestos activist and convenor of Ban Asbestos Network of India, said, “Asbestos products are visible everywhere in Maharashtra. Although the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board is aware of the unacknowledged public health crisis lurking in the State, it has failed to undertake any action to make the State asbestos-free.”

Original Post : Thehindu.com
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