Implementing Nepals Asbestos Ban
On December 22, 2014, Nepal became the first country in South Asia to ban the import, sale, distribution and use of all forms of asbestos and asbestos-containing products with the exception of asbestos-containing brake shoes and clutch plates. The prohibitions came into force on June 20, 2015; data sourced from the Ministry of Finances Department of Customs shows that from mid-July 2015 to April 2016 the import of banned asbestos and asbestos-containing products continued despite the ban.2
Disseminating the necessary information to customs officers and others required to enforce the ban is taking time. Our organization, the Center for Public Health and Environmental Development (CEPHED) has taken steps to monitor compliance with the ban and research levels of asbestos awareness in ten districts of Eastern and Central Nepal which have been identified as areas where massive amounts of asbestos have been used. In pursuit of these objectives, we are in collaboration with supporting international organizations including the Takagi Fund for Citizen Science, the Asian Ban Asbestos Network and the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat progressing work on a project entitled: Research and Awareness Raising about Asbestos in Terai Region of Nepal.
Providing information and stimulating discussions about the measures needed to protect human health after the ban was adopted is a complex and time-consuming process. The experience of other Asian countries which have already trodden this path is informative. For this reason, the visit to Nepal in April, 2016 of Sugio Furuya, Coordinator of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network (ABAN) and a leading expert on Japans asbestos legacy, was timely and extremely important. During his time in Kathmandu, Mr. Furuya and I had the opportunity to engage in discussions with:
Sugio Furuya with Narayan Raj Timilsena.
Sugio Furuya with Chandra Kumar Ghimire.
Sugio Furuya with GEFONT team.
Amongst the issues raised were the:
The conversations with personnel from the government departments and civil society groups referenced above produced substantive results with specific follow-ups agreed such as airborne asbestos testing in outlets selling corrugated asbestos sheets, asbestos-containing automotive parts (brake shoes and clutch plates with suspected asbestos lining); the collection of dust samples from brake lining workshops; and the purchase of asbestos products for laboratory analysis. The first test results have been received from the Tokyo Occupational Safety and Health Center and are currently being analyzed by CEPHED.
The continuing engagement with the asbestos issue has attracted media attention as a result of which several articles have been published in recent weeks highlighting the consequences of asbestos exposures in Nepal. Work on the development of an asbestos national profile is progressing. The most important development during the month of May is in response to a written request from CEPHED, which was discussed during the meeting mentioned above with the OPMCM personnel; as a result of our request, a written directive has now been issued to the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) which forbids the use of any raw asbestos, asbestos-containing products and lead-containing construction materials in the post-disaster reconstruction. This directive has also been sent to other concerned ministries which have been advised to take steps to effectively implement the asbestos ban and undertake regular field monitoring. CEPHEDs alliances with partnering organizations and sponsors will continue to play a significant role in building our capacity and furthering our work on eradicating the asbestos hazard from Nepal.
May 25, 2016
1 Ram Charitra Sah, Executive Director, Center for Public Health and Environmental Development, Nepal.
2 Asbestos Import Data from the Department of Customs, Nepal Ministry of Finance.