Asbestos factory Muzaffarpur, BH, India

Asbestos factory forced to stop construction thanks to school children mobilization


Government of Bihar had permitted many asbestos plants to set up in different district of Bihar. Muzarffarpur, Bhojpur, West Champaran and Vaishali districts were selected for setting up these plants. Most of these districts are rich in agriculture and densely populated. Among the many factories, people of Chainpur-Vishunpur village in Muzaffarpur district heavily protested during the construction of an asbestos plant by a Kolkata based company named Balmukund Cement and Roofing Ltd.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Asbestos factory Muzaffarpur, BH, India
State or province:Bihar
(municipality or city/town)Village - Chainpur-Vishunpur; Block- Marwan; District- Muzaffarpur
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Mineral processing
Building materials extraction (quarries, sand, gravel)
Other industries
Specific commodities:Asbestos
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

Balmukund Cement & Roofings Ltd is the subsiadiary of Balmukund Group based in Kolkata, West Bengal. The company is engaged in various types of modern building products [5]. The company’s EIA report revealed that 29000 tonnes per annum of raw asbestos fiber, a hazardous material will be imported to manufacture sheets in the factory [2]. The estimated cost of the factory was about Rs 31-crore [6]. The factory was expected to employ about 500 villagers after it become full functional

Level of Investment:$4,984,067 (Rs 31crore)
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:25,000-30,000
Start of the conflict:2010
Company names or state enterprises:Balmukund Cement & Roofings LTD (Balmukund) from India - Owner
Relevant government actors:Bihar State Pollution Control Board

Government of Bihar

Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Citizen Forum against Asbestos (Patna, Bihar)

‘Khet Bachao Jiwan Bachao Jan Sangharsha Committee’

All India Krishak Khet Mazdoor Sangathan

Communist Party of India--Political Party

Communist Party of India (Marxist)--Political Party

Socialist Unity Centre of India--Political Party
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
School Children
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson
Threats to use arms
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Air pollution, Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Potential: Occupational disease and accidents, Other environmental related diseases, Other Health impacts, Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: displacement, Loss of livelihood, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Project cancelled
Withdrawal of company/investment
Development of alternatives:There is a global awareness of the asbestos fibers and their health impact. When the people all around the globe are trying to get rid of all forms of asbestos, they also do not want to allow any such asbestos plants into their locality. Protestors demanded immediate stop of the construction of asbestos cement plants. They want their village asbestos free. [2].
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Asbestos known to cause lung cancer and silicosis is banned in many developed and developing countries around the world. In India, though mining of asbestos is banned, companies are allowed to manufacture asbestos products.

Local people particularly the school children are very much aware about the severe health impact of Asbestos. So, from July 2010 through January 2011 they protested heavily against coming up of the plant. With the substantial protest, district administration in Muzaffarpur imposed Section 144 (Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) of 1973, (unlawful assembly) according to sections 141-149 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the maximum punishment for engaging in rioting is rigorous imprisonment for 3 years and/or fine) near the facility. Police also tried to suppress the movement by arresting the leaders [3].

According to the company the villagers’ should not be worried about the plant. The villagers are being misinformed because unlike blue asbestos, white asbestos is harmless. There are over 50 white asbestos factories throughout the country. Many of these factories are in densely-populated areas and there are no protests against the factories in these areas. However, villagers are informed that white asbestos, is widely used in the developing world, but is banned on health grounds in many industrialized countries. Even the World Health Organization says that it is also related to the diseases like mesothelioma, lung and other cancers. So, the villagers are not satisfied with explanations from the company officials. They say that school text books approved by the Bihar government shows that all forms of asbestos are not only harmful but also cause deadly diseases such as cancer. Hence, they will not allow any factory to come up in the village [4].

District Magistrate (DM), Muzaffarpur, stopped construction work and imposed prohibitory orders in the area around Plant in January 2011. However, villagers want to continue their protest till there is total ban on asbestos plants [6].

The movement is unique in the sense not only because of the vociferous nature of the protest but also many poor, and people from remote area with high levels of illiteracy were also involved. The movement has caught the attention of India's environmentalists and prominent social workers. Meanwhile, the schoolchildren of Muzaffarpur are demonstrating every day to make people aware of the hazardous effects of the "asbestos dust" [4].
Sources and Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Manufacture, storage and import of hazardous chemical rules, 1989
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Indosh News
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[1] Bihar, India: People’s movement stalls the construction of an asbestos factory
[click to view]

[2]Copy of letter sent to the Sub Divisional Officer (SDO) of Muzaffarpur
[click to view]

[3] Bihar's Singur? Stir over asbestos plant
[click to view]

[4] Student protest halts asbestos factory in Bihar, India
[click to view]

[5] Balmukund Cement & Roofings LTD.
[click to view]

[6] Resounding 'No!' to asbestos plant in Bihar
[click to view]

Killer asbestos factory impending in Bihar despite protests
[click to view]

High court orders renewal of permit to Utkal asbestos plant in Bihar
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Protest against Asbestos Factory
[click to view]

Other documents

Children learning from school books Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-12354285
[click to view]

Factory closed after protests after the protest Source : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-12354285
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Swapan Kumar Patra
Last update17/02/2015