Asian Ban Asbestos Network: 2024 Update 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



On March 3, 2024, dozens of members of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network (ABAN) convened in Colombo, Sri Lanka for the 2024 ABAN South Asia Strategy meeting. The event, which was jointly organized by ABAN and Sri Lanka’s Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ), was supported by the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS), the Asian Network for the Rights of Occupational and Environmental Victims (ANROEV), the Asia Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC), Solidarity Center and the OSHE Foundation.


Banner for March 2024 ABAN meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Photo courtesy of ABAN.

The ABAN asbestos strategy sessions were scheduled to take place in the run-up to the two-day 2024 ANROEV South Asia Sub-Regional Strategy Workshop so that ABAN delegates from Bangladesh, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Korea, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka & the US were able to participate in the consecutive conferences. The attendees represented a range of civil society campaigning bodies including: trade unions, asbestos victims’, environmental and consumer groups as well as medical experts and grassroots organizers committed to eradicating the asbestos hazard at home and abroad.


Group photo of ABAN delegates at March 3, 2024 meeting in Sri Lanka. Photo courtesy of ABAN.

This is the second ABAN meeting since the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to in-person gatherings; the first such conference was in Bangkok in May 2023.1 Commenting on the deliberations this month, ABAN Coordinator Sugio Furuya said:

“One of the outcomes of discussions at last year’s ABAN conference in Thailand was the realization that the development of information resources tailored to the specific needs of national dialogues and level of civil society engagement should be prioritized. This was the reason for inviting ABAN members to Colombo from countries which currently account for 46% of all the asbestos consumed in Asia. By reducing the number of people taking part, there was plenty of time for a lively exchange of information and ideas. It was great to see the level of engagement exhibited by each and every one of the attendees. It is also highly significant and gratifying to report that a new generation of activists is embracing the asbestos challenge.”2

Sri Lanka was an appropriate venue for this month’s meeting. Its asbestos history is unique, revealing the lengths to which global asbestos producers will go to safeguard industry’s profits. After the Government of Sri Lanka announced plans to phase out asbestos use beginning on January 1, 2018 – with a full ban in place by 2024 – the Russian Government abruptly halted imports of tea from Sri Lanka, causing a major threat to the Sri Lankan economy. Just 2 days later, the Sri Lankan Government announced its decision to defer banning asbestos imports from Russia. Since then, Sri Lanka has imported a total of 227,400 tonnes of asbestos, the vast majority of which came from Russia.3

The good news is that despite these setbacks, groups in Sri Lanka are fighting back. According to Chalani Rubesinghe, the Project Planning and Management Officer at Sri Lanka’s Centre for Environmental Justice, current efforts to protect the population from hazardous asbestos exposures include: environmental asbestos sampling projects in Colombo, public information videos, documentation exposing the lies being broadcast by asbestos lobbyists in Sri Lanka and the building of domestic and international support networks.4


Chalani Rubesinghe, Project Planning and Management Officer, addressing ABAN delegates on March 3, 2024. Photo courtesy of ABAN.

As can be seen by the following graph which was shared by Sugio Furuya on March 3, the deadly consequences of asbestos use in South Asian countries are now becoming manifest: the incidence of asbestos-related diseases is on the rise throughout the region.


South Asia: Occupational ARDS deaths per 100,000 (Enlarge image).

Banning asbestos will prevent future generations from experiencing debilitating and fatal diseases such as asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung and other cancers. By progressing work to address the asbestos hazard at both national and regional levels, ABAN has a vital role to play in ending an epidemic taking hundreds of thousands of lives every year.

March 12, 2024


1 Kazan-Allen, L. A Tale of Two Cities 2023! May 18, 2023.

2 Email from Sugio Furuya. March 10, 2024.

3 Media Release. Economic blackmail by Russia against Sri Lanka’s asbestos ban decision slammed by international trade unions and health networks. January 3, 2018.
Kazan-Allen, L. Asbestos Endgame: 2017! December 20, 2017.
Samath, F. Russia suspends tea imports from Lanka; three ministers to fly to Moscow for urgent talks. December 17, 2017.
According to a presentation in Colombo, 82% of the asbestos use in Sri Lanka originates in Russia.

4 Centre for Environmental Justice. නිවසේ වහල යට ඔබ අප සැබවින්ම ආරක්ෂිතද ? [Are you really safe under the roof of your house?] July 11, 2022.



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