Asbestos Protests in India
On Tuesday (May 22, 2012) 500 Indian villagers in Odisha, India's 9th largest state, mounted a highly visible march and demonstration against plans by Vishwakarma Asbestos Ltd. to build an asbestos factory in the Sohella area of Bargarh district.
The protestors' destination was the 18-acre site in the Naagaon-Lebidi area where the asbestos-cement roofing factory is to be built.1
Despite strong resistance expressed by local people during a public hearing in September 2011 and continued opposition to the cancer factory, no attempt has been made by the government or the district administrators to block the controversial commercial development in a densely populated area within a 2 km radius of 10 villages. As a warning to the company and to its government supporters, protestors went to the factory site on Tuesday and demolished barbed wire fencing, poles and a temporary wooden hut.
As well as concerns about the deadly consequences of bringing asbestos into the community and the occupational and environmental pollution which will be caused, there is disquiet over the likelihood of Vishwakarma's use of water, a precious natural resource needed by villagers for the agriculture upon which the area is reliant.
The Indian asbestos-cement industrial sector is aggressively developing new facilities throughout the country. Seventy kilometres from the Sohella block, Vishakha, one of India's biggest asbestos-cement producers, is due to begin production in a new factory at Parmanpur in Sambalpur district. Alert citizens and social activists in the area have grave concerns about the new asbestos factories in Odisha. It is a well-known fact, one protestor told IBAS, that exposure to asbestos causes cancer. Maybe asbestos companies in Delhi or Hyderabad think this news has not yet reached Indians living in rural areas. Unfortunately for them, it has. We will resist any attempt by them to dump their poison on our doorstop. We will not accept any asbestos production to be imposed upon us or our community. These companies should not underestimate the strong level of anger felt by local people at their plans to poison our families and destroy our land. In India, we know how to resist the actions of evildoers.
May 24, 2012