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Raising Asbestos Awareness in Nepal 2018
The Center for Public Health and Environmental Development (CEPHED) in Nepal with the support of the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) and International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS), successfully organized a day-long Awareness and Capacity Building Training Workshop on Effective Implementation of Asbestos Ban in Nepal on October 28, 2018 jointly with the Government of Nepal, Birgunj Metropolitan City, Customs Office of Birgunj and Suryodaya Youth Club Birgunj; taking part were over 60 representatives from different municipalities including mayors, deputy mayors, health advocates, education specialists, personnel from NGOs, Commerce Officer, Revenue Officer, Customs Officer, laboratory experts, reporters, etc. All the participants were given asbestos information material including a poster, factsheet and booklet, which CEPHED produced last year.
The workshop was inaugurated by chief guest speaker Mrs. Santi Karki, Deputy Mayor, Birgunj Metropolitan City. She praised the efforts of CEPHED to increase awareness and build the capacity of concerned government agencies, business entrepreneurs and others in order to enhance the effective implementation of the Asbestos Ban in Nepal.
Another important guest was Chief Customs Officer Mr. Gopal Khatri from the Customs Office in Birgunj. In his address to the workshop, he promised to tighten import controls in order to completely stop the import of asbestos and products containing asbestos via customs offices.
Likewise, Chief Ground Water Irrigation Officer Mr. Kameshwor Yadav appreciated the efforts of NGOs like CEPHED which he said was well regarded for its research-based campaigns and its assistance to the government in implementing many national policies such as: a ban on the import, sale, distribution and use of asbestos, prohibitions on the use of mercury products, and implementation of standards regarding lead paint and children’s toys in Nepal.
Mr. Chandesh Kurmar Chauhan, Secretary of the NGO Coordination Committee, Parsa, chaired the inaugural session and in addressing the workshop showed sincere commitment towards raising awareness and progressing the effective implementation of the asbestos ban in Nepal.
Mr. Ram Charitra Sah, Executive Director and Environment Scientist at CEPHED, shed light on the importance and objective of the workshop and also made a technical presentation on the “The status of implementation of Nepal ban asbestos prohibitions on the import, sale, distribution and use of asbestos & prevention, control measures and initiatives to reduce the impact of asbestos exposures on human health and the environment.” He also discussed the hazards posed by lead in paint, chemicals in children’s toys, mercury in products used for health care and dentistry as well as chemical contamination of cosmetics.
He briefly introduced CEPHED and its campaign for the asbestos ban in Nepal. He also presented information on the status of asbestos import levels and highlighted the need for even stronger and more coordinated efforts to reduce asbestos imports to zero through tightening custom controls, increased market monitoring, raising public awareness and building capacity.
He shed light on the three important post ban issues associated with asbestos and called for action from all concerned government agencies and stakeholders regarding:
- effective implementation of the asbestos ban decision and reducing import levels to ZERO;
- reduction of health and environmental damage from existing uses of asbestos and asbestos containing products by minimizing every possible human exposure;
- implementation of environmental policies to ensure sound management of asbestos containing wastes that is going to be generated on a massive scale in the near future from the disposal of toxic products.
Dr. Arbind Pathak, Assistant Professor at Trichnadra Multiple Campus, Kathmandu presented a paper on “Development of Asbestos Testing Method and its Uses.” The testing method has been domestically developed by the Department of Customs after the banning of Asbestos in Nepal to meet an urgent need to have testing facilities in place to check import consignments and stop the import of asbestos and asbestos containing products. He fully explained the development of the testing facilities and testing procedure; he also discussed how to use these protocols. The speaker explained the precautions needed to reduce exposures during testing of the asbestos samples so as to avoid occupational exposure of laboratory personnel.
Mr. Manoj Nidhi Wagle, Senior Chemist and Director at Central Custom Labs, Department of Customs, Kathmandu made a presentation on “The Status of Import and Customs Control of Banned Asbestos, Challenges, Opportunities and Approaches” in which he considered the following issues and enlightened all the participants, especially the Custom Officers from the border area about: introduction of the Asbestos ban regulation; asbestos import and consumption data; causes of noncompliance; at-risk occupations; types of asbestos containing products; challenges being faced and opportunities; action taken by the customs department and custom offices towards regulating the importation of these products to Nepal.
It is clearly a remarkable achievement that current data indicate a heavy reduction of importation of asbestos and asbestos containing products through customs. Also, more than half a dozen print media articles have been published carrying news on the issues raised in the workshop and there has been substantial coverage on Radio and TV as well as in online media.