Press Release: Dhaka, 23 April 2016
The Bangladesh Ban Asbestos Network (B-BAN), the Asian Ban Asbestos Network (A-BAN) and the Asia Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC) hosted a strategy meeting to push for the banning of asbestos in South Asia in Brac Inn, Dhaka on 23 April 2016. The meeting brought together 20 advocates, activists, victims and trade unionists from Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and Nepal. It aims to formulate strategies nationally and to work on regionally coordinated activities on diagnosis, compensation and advocacy towards the ban of asbestos in South Asia.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 107,000 people die of asbestos-related diseases every year. Moreover, the estimated global burden of asbestos-related diseases is 218,338 in 2013. Testimonials from asbestos victims in Bangladesh substantiate these statistics. Mr. Mahmood, 43, shared that during his 17 years of working in a shipbreaking yard in Chittagong, he had routinely handled asbestos with his bare hands and eaten food with his hands without washing them. Asbestos fibers were found all over his worksite; they were even found in sputum. He was not aware of the deadly impacts of exposure to this carcinogenic substance. As a result of the prolonged exposure, he now suffers from chest pain, breathing problems, malaise, and physical weakness.
In South Asia, grassroots and victims' organisations consistently pressure the government to form infrastructures for diagnosis of asbestos-related diseases and compensation for victims. In particular, Mr. Sugio Furuya, Coordinator of A-BAN, noted key developments in the region concerning the banning of asbestos and cited successful strategies that could be replicated in the other countries. Nepal banned asbestos in 2015 while Sri Lanka is due to implement a ban by 2018. In India, the state of Rajasthan has set up a Pneumoconiosis Board, under which government doctors diagnose cases of occupational lung diseases and identified victims are compensated through a government-managed fund.
In Bangladesh, since its inception in 2013, the B-BAN has been raising awareness on the issue and identifying workers and communities affected by asbestos, especially in Chittagong. Supported by regional and global campaigners, B-BAN is advocating for the complete ban of asbestos in Bangladesh. Mr. Repon Chowdhury, National Coordinator of B-BAN He demanded that the Bangladesh government immediately produce a national asbestos profile, develop a national plan of action to combat asbestos-related diseases, deliver justice to asbestos victims, and commit to a time-bound banning of asbestos.
Further, Mr. Chowdhury declared that ‘now’ is the time for collective action to pressure South Asian governments to follow the lead of Nepal in completely banning asbestos.
For more information, contact:
Mr. Repon Chowdhury
National Coordinator, Bangladesh Ban Asbestos Network (B-BAN)
Mr. Sugio Furuya
Coordinator, Asian Ban Asbestos Network (A-BAN)