FCPMA Sri Lanka Coordinator Anton Edema shedding light on the current status of the industry during a media briefing while the members of the Fibre Cement Products Manufacturers’ Association look on
By Shabiya Ali Ahlam The roofing sheets industry leaders continue to be in a distressed state as the government has chosen to turn a deaf ear to their pleas of wanting to have discussions on the possibility of revoking the proposed ban on asbestos, which will come into effect from 2018. According to the Fibre Cement Products Manufacturers’ Association (FCPMA), the members of the industry have made numerous attempts to meet with the relevant government authorities, including President Maithripala Sirisena to justify the need to retract the decision. But their efforts, so far, have been futile.
“They acknowledge our letters, but nothing about meeting with us. We have tried our best. They directed us to meet with a department secretary about a month back but he was least interested in hearing us out,” said FCPMA Sri Lanka Coordinator Anton Edema to journalists yesterday at a media briefing held to discuss the industry’s view on the government’s decision to control and subsequently phase out the import and usage of chrysotile fibre in Sri Lanka. According to the FCPMA members, the prospective ban would deliver a blow to the 62-year-old industry as it would cost 4,700 employees their jobs and in turn have negative implications on over 35,000 individuals who directly and indirectly depend on the sector.
The consumers are also set to lose out on having an economical option for roofing solutions. The association said the ideal way forward would be to form a body that includes industry stakeholders, scientists and government representatives to be appointed, to conduct a scientific research that would justify the need to or not to ban asbestos sheets. The association also expressed they would be open to having a regulator. They opined that in the case of research, the “government is clueless”. “They think what is applicable to other counties are revenant here. It is not. They need to look into the details of it before banning it altogether,” said Edema. Studies reveal that asbestos are banned in Europe and Australia as it uses amphibole, which has resulted in the asbestos concentration in the air in public and factory areas to be 400 – 3700 f/cc. In Sri Lanka, the concentration is only 0.1 f/cc. It was highlighted that there is no research evidence to support that chrysotile is hazardous. While asbestos-related diseases are not reported amongst local plant workers, there is no risk for the users of high-density chrysotile cement roofing products. “Over 150 countries are still using chrysotile fibre so let’s look at the positive side. The WHO only recommends a course of action. We don’t have to abide by it since the use of these fibres in roofing sheets is minimal. It is important to look at the matter in-depth before banning a product,” the FCPMA said.