Safe Development Cannot Include Asbestos

Apr 30, 2019

Safe Development Cannot Include Asbestos

Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA is calling on the Asian Development Bank to update the Safeguard Policy Statement to include all asbestos products as prohibited investment activities. Continuing to use asbestos in infrastructure and other projects will condemn communities to decades of health and safety risks.

This week in Fiji the Asian Development Bank (ADB) will be holding their annual meeting and discussion on the bank’s strategy to 2030. The ADB is a regional financial institution that delivers grants, loans, funding and technical assistance in the region. It has 67 regional and non-regional partners. Australia contributes 5.7% of the subscribed capital and has 4.9% of the voting power. By their own description, “The Asian Development Bank envisions a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty in the region”.

Development that relies on hazardous substances and the support of a dangerous industry will undermine the progress made in poverty reduction, environmental protection and the creation of resilient communities by extending the impact of asbestos related diseases.

Asbestos is a hazardous substance that causes a range of cancers and diseases that can occur over a long period of latency. Current estimates by the Global Burden of Disease study in 2017 put the impact of asbestos related diseases at over 222,000 deaths per year in 2016. According to the World Health Organisation, 125 million people are exposed to asbestos in the workplace around the world. Whilst the majority of asbestos related diseases can be linked to occupational exposure, there is also evidence that non-occupational exposure has led to asbestos related diseases.

Countries in the Asia Pacific region consume the majority of the world’s asbestos. Whilst countries in the region continue to use this hazardous product they will continue to see asbestos related diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and other cancers in their communities for decades to come. The ADB funds projects in asbestos consuming countries across the region including the four Asbestos. Not Here. Not Anywhere. target countries Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia. Countries that have banned asbestos represent just under 48% of the voting power at the ADB.

The Asian Development Bank should exclude all asbestos materials from their investment activities by eliminating the clause that allows for the purchase of asbestos cement sheeting.

The ADB Prohibited Investment Activities (Safeguard Policy Statement Appendix 5) prohibits the production of, trade in, or use of unbonded asbestos fibres (clause viii). However the document also states that “This does not apply to the purchase and use of bonded asbestos cement sheeting where the asbestos content is less than 20%” (Appendix 5 Footnote 12). The majority of asbestos cement sheeting is 5-20% asbestos therefore the Safeguard Policy Statement allows for the financing of projects that use asbestos sheeting.

Updates from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) annual meeting

Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA’s asbestos campaigner, Emma Bacon, will be attending Asian Development Bank (ADB) annual meeting. Help us amplify the Asbestos. Not Here. Not Anywhere campaign by sharing information and updates on Facebook and Twitter and by becoming a member of Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA.

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