India supports Asbestos for PIC list

By Savvy Soumya Misra
Published: Wednesday 22 June 2011

In a turn of events, on June 22,  India agreed to the listing of chrysotile asbestos in Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention or the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) list. PIC list increases transparency between trading countries by letting the importer know that it is importing hazardous substance.

India announced its position, on day 3, at a contact group meeting set up to discuss chrysotile asbestos (white asbestos) in the absence of a consensus. India received a standing ovation at the plenary for changing its stand.

The fifth Conference Of Parties (COP) of the Rotterdam Convention is meeting in Geneva to decide the inclusion chrysotile asbestos along with endosulfan, alachlor and aldicarb in the Annex III. The UN's Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade is an important tool to protect human health and the environment by controlling trade in hazardous chemicals and pesticides that meet the requirements of the Convention. The meeting is between June 20- 24.

Chrysotile asbestos has twice before been recommended for inclusion by the Chemical Review Committee of the Convention and is now being considered for the third time by delegates at COP 5. India has been among the nations opposing its listing in the last couple of COP sessions on grounds of insufficient health risk data.

India's change of heart is a surprise especially after India opposed the listing just a day before citing pieces of national evidence suggesting that it can be used safely. Besides India, countries like Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Vietnam opposed the listing of the asbestos on the grounds that there wasn't enough scientific cases regarding health risks and lack of substitutes. 

Now with a change in stand, India has become a part of a smaller group that will discuss and influence the position of Ukraine and Kazakhstan. The discussion is being led by India and Australia. India, a big influence here, is going to be instrumental in breaking the deadlock. 

"This is a major breakthrough in ending the deadlock. India's change in position will have considerable influence in changing the opinion of the remaining dissenting countries and hopefully chrysotile will be included on the PIC list by COP 5," said Alexandra Caterbow, co-coordinator Rotterdam Convention Alliance (ROCA). ROCA is an alliance of more than 500 environmental, health and labour groups from across the globe.


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