15 September 2014

Asbestos Time Bomb in Bangladesh

Just a 3 minutes ride in a motorbike from the other side of Buriganga bridge from Dhaka city inside Basundhara River View project. Give a look left and you will find big sized new ships are being built. Hundreds of workers are busy with that. Thanks to the ship building industry, Bangladesh is building new ships fulfills domestic needs and exporting to Western countries. But what western countries are exporting to Bangladesh. The list is big and in many cases important for Bangladesh economy. But the list includes name asbestos. Really harmful, dangerous and damaging for the people of Bangladesh.

Where these asbestos come from, where these asbestos are being processed, where these asbestos are being used remain almost hidden here. But near the ship building yard on the other side of river Buriganga of Dhaka city OHSE research team has found a number of small cottage-like dens where asbestos are being processed. The place is out of general peoples sight, here a number of male and female work. They process asbestos, first burn the raw asbestoses into liquid then turn it into solid form in cases of different shapes. And finally supply the solid asbestos to the market. Here the raw forms of asbestoses are being processed said by an expert gives legal supports to the importers of asbestos.

Most of the cases asbestos comes from abroad as an imported good are directly going to the local market for multiple uses.  Bangladesh is the 31st top country in the world in the line of consuming asbestos. Canada, Russia, South Africa, Mozambique, Turkey, Austria, Brazil, USA, Australia, and Oman are listed as exporters of asbestos and asbestos contained materials to Bangladesh.

Its annual consumption is on an average 8,500 tones involving about 1.5 million dollar. The use of domestic consumption is growing side by side increase import of raw asbestos and asbestos contained finished materials inside to country on recent years with having little public information and knowledge as well as legal instruments to take a controlling measures of it.
Furthermore, in Bangladesh asbestos is recovered by manual crushing and then re-crusted, or-re-formed, for re-use. Asbestos is still not necessarily regulated as hazardous waste in Bangladesh. Asbestos is being used in many purposes.  Besides founding asbestos and asbestos contained materials from the source of ship breaking sector located in Chittagong, in Bangladesh many products contains asbestos are selling and baying at local marker without knowing its definite consequence at personal life in long run.

Almost every family in Bangladesh consumes some sort of asbestos. Electric Ceiling fans using inside the house contain with asbestos. The body of the fans are made of asbestos and these are made at the place of the other side of Buriganga, mentioned above. While the research team talked to Masum Hossain, a broker there, in the guise of traders, he was ready to supply as much as needed.

In the area women were found working directly with asbestoses. Sacks of asbestoses kept here and there. While wanted to touch, one of the women stopped, saying, don’t touch, it would cause you harm. Asked, how do they work with such a thing, she said, we have no problem.  These women have been working here for 2/3 years. None found, who worked there for more than 5 years.  This is common; nobody wants to work for long period. As asked none of the workers said, they suffer any physical constraints for this.

Source: Asia Monitor Resource Centre

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