Asbestos Profile: Indonesia 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



According to data provided by a spokesperson for the Indonesian Ban Asbestos Network during a webinar on July 23, 2020, Indonesia imports 100,000 tonnes of asbestos fiber every year, 90% of which is used in the production of construction materials [Asbestos Ban Update: Campaigning in a Global Crisis webinar]. Nearly 14% of housing in urban areas was, he said, built with asbestos-containing materials manufactured at one of the country’s 27 factories [Latest Global Asbestos Data]. In 2018, Indonesia was the world’s second largest asbestos importer accounting for 14.5% of global sales worth $54 million, with India – the world’s largest importer – accounting for 47% of global consumption (worth $180m). The vast majority of asbestos used in Indonesia comes from the Russian Federation.

Even as asbestos usage in Indonesia increased during the 21st century, government agencies failed to regulate exposures to this acknowledged carcinogen [Asian Asbestos Conference, page 25 (pdf page 29)]. In 2009, grassroots activist Muchamad Darisman reported that: “There were no laws in Indonesia which regulated the use of asbestos, no data on the incidence of asbestos-related diseases, no official attempts to identify asbestos victims and a low level of asbestos awareness amongst government officials and members of the public.”

A 27-page National Asbestos Profile of Indonesia produced in 2015 highlighted the dearth of government asbestos regulation, a prioritization of corporate well-being over occupational and consumer health and a lack of data on imports of asbestos fiber and asbestos-containing products as well as on the incidence of asbestos-related diseases. Data cited in the Profile supported the assertion that Indonesia is the country with the world’s highest per capita asbestos consumption.

For decades, Indonesian asbestos markets have been targeted by domestic and global asbestos lobbyists from groups such as the (Indonesian) Fiber Cement Manufacturers Association and the International Chrysotile Association. Using a multiplicity of measures, they worked assiduously to maintain control of the country’s asbestos dialogue and increase demand for chrysotile (white) asbestos products [Killing the Future – Asbestos Use in Asia, page 16]. The industry’s 2006 “International Scientific Symposium” in Jakarta was “little more than a propaganda exercise to promote the ‘safe use’ of chrysotile.”

To counter industry propaganda, grassroots activists and trade unionists mobilized to provide an alternative narrative, one based on the global consensus that the best way to eradicate asbestos related-diseases was to end the use of asbestos. On October 17, 2010, a new alliance was launched in Indonesia to progress the national campaign to ban asbestos [Asbestos Action in Indonesia]. The Indonesian Ban Asbestos Network (INA-BAN) was supported by health and safety activists, environmental campaigners and trade unionists from local groups such as Local Initiatives on OSH Network, Indonesian Forum for the Environment and the Federation of Construction, Informal and General Workers.

Working with partnering organizations from home and abroad, INA-BAN initiated a range of community outreach projects to raise asbestos awareness and build support for action at local as well as national level [Asian Asbestos Conference, page 25 (pdf page 29)] [The Road to an Asbestos-Free Indonesia] [Indonesian Mobilization on Asbestos] [Indonesian Mobilization on Asbestos] [Indonesian Campaign to Ban Asbestos] [Community Activism in Indonesia] [Raising Asbestos Awareness in Indonesia].

Bilateral and multilateral research and campaigning initiatives were pivotal in raising the profile of the asbestos hazard and building medical capacity at home and ensuring that victims’ voices were represented at international forums such as the United Nations and Brazilian Supreme Court [The Rotterdam Convention 2019] [Report from the Asian Ban Asbestos Mission to Brazil] [Press Briefing: The Asian Ban Asbestos Mission to Brazil 2019] [Indonesian National Asbestos Seminar] [Confronting Indonesia’s Asbestos Challenges] [Indonesian Asbestos-Related Disease Workshop] [Workshop: Dangerous Asbestos Trade in Asia].

In recent years, the work of Indonesian ban asbestos campaigners has resulted in increased occupational and public asbestos awareness, heightened engagement by local and national agencies and improved medical treatment for asbestos patients. Information about some of these developments can be accessed via our news archive [News Archive].

August, 2020.



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