Abandoned Asbestos Mines Still a Hazard in India

“Asbestos waste spills in a gray gash down the flank of a lush green hill above tribal villages in eastern India. Three decades after the mines were abandoned, nothing has been done to remove the enormous, hazardous piles of broken rocks and powdery dust left behind. In Roro Village and other settlements below, people who never worked in the mines are dying of lung disease. Yet in a country that treats asbestos as a savior that provides cheap building materials for the poor, no one knows the true number and few care to ask. Neither the government nor the Indian company that ran the mines from 1963 to 1983 has made any move to clean up the estimated 700,000 tons of asbestos tailings and debris left scattered across several kilometers (miles) of hilly mining area.

India placed a moratorium on asbestos mining in 1986, acknowledging it was hazardous to miners. But that was the government’s last decision curtailing the spread of asbestos. It has since embraced the mineral as a cheap building material. Today, India is the world’s fastest-growing market for asbestos. India keeps no statistics on how many people have been sickened or died from exposure to asbestos, which industry and many government officials insist is safe when mixed with cement. Western medical experts strongly disagree. The World Health Organization and more than 50 countries, including the U.S. and all of Europe, say it should be banned in all forms. Asbestos fibers lodge in the lungs and cause many diseases”. – Katy Daigle via The Associated Press.

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In this September 11, 2014 photo, Jema Sundi sits outside her home in barren hills where asbestos waste was dumped is visible in the background in Roro, India. An asbestos mine, abandoned nearly three decades ago still affects the people around it and 18 along with Jema were diagnosed with asbestosis in 2012. Tens of thousands more, some former mine workers, remain untested and at risk. (Photo by Saurabh Das/AP Photo)

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In this September 11, 2014 photo, villagers climb down the side of a hill used earlier as a dumping ground of asbestos waste on Roro hills in Roro, India. (Photo by Saurabh Das/AP Photo)

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In this September 11, 2014 photo, Kalyan Bansingh, left, main plaintiff in a case suing the country’s environmental courts for cleanup, compensation and a fund for future victims of an abandoned asbestos mine sits outside his home in Roro, India. (Photo by Saurabh Das/AP Photo)

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In this September 10, 2014 photo, a man washes his bicycle sitting on loose asbestos sediments brought down by a stream from Roro hills in Roro, India. (Photo by Saurabh Das/AP Photo)

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In this September 11, 2014 photo, herds of cattle, goats and sheep walk over asbestos sediments as they return after grazing at Roro hills in Roro, India. (Photo by Saurabh Das/AP Photo)

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In this September 11, 2014 photo, Baleman Sundi prepares brooms to sell at her home in Roro, India. (Photo by Saurabh Das/AP Photo)

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In this September 11, 2014 photo, villagers work in a field at the foothills of Roro hills in Roro, India. (Photo by Saurabh Das/AP Photo)

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In this September 12, 2014 photo, bundles of wood collected and left behind on top of Roro hills sit on loose asbestos to be rolled downhill at the end of the day in Roro, India. (Photo by Saurabh Das/AP Photo)

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In this September 11, 2014 photo, a villager walks on loose asbestos waste near Roro hills in Roro, India. (Photo by Saurabh Das/AP Photo)

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In this September 12, 2014 photo, the open entrance to an abandoned asbestos mine is seen on Roro hills in Roro, India. (Photo by Saurabh Das/AP Photo)

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In this September 13, 2014 photo, children play on a farmland destroyed by asbestos sediments in Roro, India. (Photo by Saurabh Das/AP Photo)

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In this September 11, 2014 photo, imprints of animal hooves are left on asbestos sediments at Roro hills in Roro, India. (Photo by Saurabh Das/AP Photo)

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In this September 11, 2014 photo, villagers climb down the side of a hill used earlier as a dumping ground of asbestos waste on Roro hills in Roro, India. (Photo by Saurabh Das/AP Photo)

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In this September 10, 2014 photo, paddy fields roll along the contours of Roro hills in Roro, India. (Photo by Saurabh Das/AP Photo)

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In this September 11, 2014 photo, a tribal family cycles back to their village as the Roro hills stand in the background in Roro, India. (Photo by Saurabh Das/AP Photo)

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