The third Clean Pacific Roundtable conference brought together people from 15 countries in the Pacific to discuss environmental, health, and hazardous waste issues in the region. Participants have already agreed to move towards an asbestos ban and are now grappling with how to protect the population from exposure and where to dispose of the thousands of tonnes of asbestos waste when there is no available land to bury it.
The Australian government asbestos management agency ASEA and Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA were asked to present at the conference to share experience and lessons from the region.
In Laos, the LAOBAN network held a lively one-day online briefing for journalists on 12 November to discuss asbestos hazards. The event brought together 14 journalists from Lao TV, radio and social media. They heard from five LAOBAN speakers representing Lao trade unions, doctors from the Lao health university, the World Health Organisation and Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA’s campaign coordinator. A popular presenter from a Laos TV station moderated the workshop.
APHEDA Laos country manager Ms Vilada Phomduangsy explained: “Most of the participants were new to the topic and did not know about the health hazards of asbestos. We held it online due to COVID-19 but had great feedback from participants on the information discussed, covering local health and policy issues and risks as well as regional and global standards and situation”.
In Vietnam this week a new partner organisation joined in the campaign to raise awareness of the health hazards of asbestos for ethnic minorities and to advocate for the elimination of asbestos-related diseases. On 10 November the Association to Support Mountain Economic Development (VAMEDA) and the Research Center for Human Rights in Ethnic and Mountainous Areas signed a cooperation agreement on the project.
The groups agreed to raise awareness of the health and environmental hazards of asbestos among ethnic minorities and reduce the use of asbestos-fibre roofing sheets. They will also strengthen cooperation with the community to advocate for the conversion of using asbestos-free roofing sheets, moving towards not using asbestos fibres in roofing production in Vietnam, and safely managing the remaining asbestos fibres.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, Dr Be Truong Thanh, Chairman of VAMEDA, affirmed the special importance of the project and said he believes that this is a very appropriate time for Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA and VAMEDA to strengthen in-depth cooperation on asbestos awareness, promote economic recovery, and respond to the COVID-19 epidemic.