Last week, India's National Green Tribunal (NGT)
ordered quick remediation of 25,000 cubic meters of asbestos waste in a towering pile in the village of Roro in the State of Jharkhand.
The waste was left there 35 years ago by asbestos mining company Hindustan Industries Ltd.
Abandoned asbestos mining waste, Roro Hills.
Photo: Shweta Narayan.
This big victory follows work that began in 2012, when ELAW partner Shweta Narayan traveled to the site to collect soil samples that documented dangerous levels of asbestos exposure. Even small amounts of asbestos can cause severe health problems, including lung cancer.
"Sometimes the wheels of environmental justice turn very slowly," says Dr. Mark Chernaik, ELAW Staff Scientist.
The NGT ordered a committee of government officials to submit a plan by September that includes placing a fiber mat, soil, and seeds of local plants on top of the asbestos dump and implement other measures so the dump no longer threatens the health of nearby tribal communities.
The company must pay the costs of remediation per the Polluter Pays Principle. Villagers suffering from symptoms of asbestos exposure can be compensated via a claim procedure specified in the order.
Mark worked closely with Rahul Choudhary at the Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment and other Indian advocates to prepare three reports that the NGT considered in rendering its order.
"Indeed this case was challenging," says Rahul. "But we survived it all. Thanks to Mark for giving us hope and valuable inputs."
The NGT also ordered
clean up at asbestos mines in Rajasthan, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh. "Mark also helped with the victory in Rajasthan," says Rahul.