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Banning asbestos and healthcare

January 08, 2013

THIS refers to reports about recommendation of a ban on asbestos by National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Human Resources Development.

I support the proposed recommendation of a complete ban on the import and use of dangerous chemical ‘asbestos’ in 22 industries of the country to safeguard the environment and the health of public, in general, and of workers, in particular.However, it is most important that in consultation with the relevant asbestos-based industries, an appropriate time period be worked out and allowed/exempted with full health and safety assurance of the workers prior to the enforcement of the proposed ban in letter and in spirit.

This should be done so that our industry adjusts itself to the changeover and the workers their families do not suffer in anyway, especially regarding their employment at this time of increasing unemployment in the country.

As we are aware, a legally binding global treaty is also to be concluded next week in Geneva, on the phasing out/ban on the use of another hazardous chemical ‘mercury’ and our government which is a member of the international negotiating committee, INC, needs to ensure an appropriate exemption period prior to the implementation of this multilateral environmental agreement (MEA) on mercury’s use phase out for our industry to adjust to the forthcoming changeover.

After all, whereas, on the one hand, we very keenly desire and fully accept the need for our industry to turn into ‘green industry’, we also must ensure that further development and the progress of one of the pillars of our economy is not affected.

DR MAHMOOD A. KHWAJA Senior Adviser Chemicals and Sustainable Industrial Development, Sustainable Development Policy Institute Islamabad