Stricter measures called for to control imported products


This follows the discovery of construction material tainted with asbestos (leternik) on a housing project on Ile Perseverance.

The Minister for Land Use and Housing Christian Lionnet made the announcement in the National Assembly yesterday while answering a private notice question by the leader of government business Marie- Antoinette Rose.

Ms Rose wanted the minister to confirm that all necessary measures are being taken to remove the material concerned from the site in the shortest possible time, that all health precautions are being observed in the operation, and that a committee is set up to review structures in place, identify loopholes in order to prevent a repeat of such an incident.

Mr Lionnet said his ministry has taken all measures to rectify the situation in view of the fact that asbestos is a banned substance and a decision was taken to remove from the Ile Perseverance construction site all the material in a controlled manner according to the public health standards.

The material is being re-exported and construction work on the project has stopped while measures are underway to have the material removed.

The Ministry of Health and the contractor working on the project are working closely to ensure the careful removal of the material.

Some of the measures being put in place include:
• cordoning the area near the project with a 3.5m high fence and covering it with shade cloths;

• not allowing any construction debris and material to leave the site until the department of environment and Ministry of Health have certified that it is safe to do so;

• sampling of air and soil outside the construction site by the department of environment will be organised

• leaflets to inform and educate the population on asbestos have been produced by the  Ministry of Health.  The leaflets have already been distributed to the inhabitants of Ile Perseverance.
Mr Lionnet said his ministry is receiving full cooperation from the contractor to rectify the situation.

He said the contractor has proposed to appoint an expert in the field to work in collaboration with the Ministry of Health to ensure the operation to remove the construction material is carried out with all the necessary precaution and not pose a health risk for people in the vicinity.

Mr Lionnet also informed the assembly that his ministry remains committed to eradicate houses in the country which still contain asbestos material.

He said the owners and tenants of 29 houses at Mont Buxton and Grand Anse Mahe who have received help in that respect from the Ministry of Land Use and Housing can confirm the fact.
He pointed out that the ministry will continue to provide technical and financial help when possible to completely wipe out asbestos-tainted material around the country.
“This is because we firmly believe in the good health and a safe environment for all our people,” Mr Lionnet stressed.

He noted that the situation on Ile Perseverance is a regrettable one but the important thing is that the problem has come out and is being addressed.

Mr Lionnet once again stressed that the Ile Perseverance incident highlights loopholes and lapses in structures to detect and control the importation of dangerous goods.

He said that asbestos is one such dangerous material but noted there are many other products and material which do not necessarily meet the norms and standards which are coming in the country.

He called for the setting up of stricter measures and structures to better safeguard our country and people from those below-standard products and material.

He said his ministry is very concerned about the situation and is awaiting the recommendation of the committee.

Mr Lionnet said his ministry is also putting in place more stringent internal measures and protocol to ensure that in the future all material introduced for construction will be thoroughly tested by competent authorities.

Meanwhile Mr Lionnet has said there will be a delay for the ministry to deliver the 147 housing units. Allocation, which was expected in December, will be pushed to possibly the first quarter of next year.

With regard to allegations of asbestos material used on the new coast guard base, Mr Lionnet said the Seychelles Bureau of Standard has been requested to commission the necessary tests and it has not been ascertained yet if the material being used there is similar to that in question at the Ile Perseverance project.