|Subject: Asbestos contamination in East
<The following letter concerning asbestos contamination has been
sent to the Deputy SRSG. Additional endorsees are still welcome and a
Tetun version is available upon request. Many senior members of UNTAET
have had specific knowledge of the asbestos problem and health risks since
at least the end of May but have so far declined to take action.>
Dear NGOs working in East Timor,
Asbestos was identified as a serious public health issue at this week's
INGO meeting, attended by the new director of the NGO Forum. The meeting
attendees decided to issue a letter to be forwarded to relevant
officeholders in UNTAET, CNRT and amongst funding bodies.
Following below find the letter which is now circulating amongst all
NGOs for endorsement, prior to submission to Jean- Christian Cady early
If you wish to be identified in the letter as an endorser and
supportive of the contents, please:
Contact by email: <firstname.lastname@example.org> -or- Sign the letter in
the NGO office at OCHA -or- Contact Ewa Wojkowska (ETDA) at 0409130595
APHEDA & ETDA
To: Mr. Jean-Christian Cady, Deputy SRSG UNTAET
Cc: Xanana Gusmao, President CNRT Cecilio Adorna, Social Services
UNTAET Let. Gen. Jaime de Los Santos, UNPKF Joao Carrascalao, CNRT
Infrastructure CNRT Emergency Commission Takeshi Kamiyama, Environmental
Protecton Unit UNTAET Anders Erixon, Land and Property Commission, UNTAET
James Tulloch, Office of Health Services UNTAET Win Htut, BMS UNTAET Dili
District Administrator, UNTAET Dili District Infrastructure District
Administrators USAID World Bank UNDP
June 30, 2000
Dear Mr. Cady,
At our weekly meeting on 27 June 2000, NGOs learned that asbestos
contamination is a serious public health problem in East Timor and
particularly in Dili.
We understand that many buildings in Dili and particularly the majority
of public buildings constructed after 1975 used asbestos extensively in
their roofing and ceiling materials. Building rubble throughout Dili is
now contaminated with this lethal substance following last year's violence
Asbestos fibres are minute and, without proper protection, are inhaled
whenever disturbed. Once inhaled, asbestos remains in the human body. It
causes mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases for which there is
no cure. In Australia, public health officials estimate that these
diseases will kill between 20,000 and 50,000 people over the next 20
We are very concerned that UNTAET and those agencies which are funding
UNTAET activities are engaged in many project areas where workers and
members of the public are being exposed to asbestos without any of the
protections in place which have governed handling of asbestos since the
ILO Asbestos Convention 1986, #162 and ILO Asbestos Recommendation R172.
Members of the both the public and of peacekeeping forces who are
working on cleanup programs which involve any disturbance of contaminated
building rubble are subject to potentially lethal exposure. These likely
include TEP, QUIP and EGP projects.
UNTAET's BMS and Infrastructure departments are using their own staff
as well as local and international contractors to implement an ambitious
program of public facilities reconstruction with no evidence that
recognised procedures are in place to assure safe handling and disposal of
asbestos and other harmful contaminants.
People and business people throughout Dili are engaged in the
rebuilding of homes and workplaces without the benefit of a public
information campaign or access to procedures and safety equipment which
would protect their health.
We are very concerned to learn that a comprehensive survey was
conducted by Interfet in January which identified the presence of asbestos
and other health hazards in the Cantonment area. This area is now
identified as the concentration of public buildings and functions, during
the transitional period and beyond.
Further, we understand that copies of this survey were distributed to
key people within UNTAET and Dili District Administration at the end of
May (by a consultant working for APHEDA.)
We are unaware of any actions which UNTAET has taken as a result of
receiving this information. This would mean that innumerable people have
potentially and unnecessarily been exposed to asbestos in the interim.
We therefore call upon UNTAET and all stakeholders who encounter
asbestos or who have an interest in this issue to take the following
steps, until such time as a safe and comprehensive asbestos testing,
removal, dumping and public education program is resourced and in place:
1. A halt to any further work on public buildings and neighborhood
cleanup programs which involve building rubble or potential exposure to
2. Stop any further removals and subsequent dumping of building rubble
at the Tibar site or any other locations.
3. Mark off all buildings and sites identified in the January Interfet
survey with barriers to prevent entry and post those sites with warning
signs in all appropriate languages which warn people of the dangers.
4. Initiate an ambitious public education campaign which explains the
risks of exposure and provides information which enables people to
identify places and circumstances where they may be at risk.
We further call upon UNTAET to institute an asbestos program with a
specialist coordinator which includes procedures outlined in international
- for testing for the presence of asbestos and other harmful
contaminants at public cleanup and building renovation sites prior to
start of any work.
- that impose safe and well-established international practice for the
safe handling and removal of contaminated materials by qualified personnel
- that assure that materials such as asbestos are dumped in such as way
as to eliminate the risk of any future contamination.
We await your reply.
Jim Mellor Ewa Wojkowska APHEDA East Timor Development Agency (ETDA)
0407 001 699 0409130595 email@example.com
Jesuit Refugee Service SAHE CARE La'o Hamutuk LAIFET (Labor Advocacy
Institute of East Timor) OXFAM International MSF - Baucau Caritas
Jim Mellor APHEDA - Union Aid Abroad Dili, East Timor office: +(670
390) 323527 (in Dili) mobile: 0407 001 699 (from Australia) mobile: + 407
001 699 Overseas email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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