IFCS Special Recognition Award
IFCS Special Recognition Award recognizes those contributing in an exceptional way on a special chemical topic or activity. Individuals, institutions or groups are eligible for the Special Recognition Award
Mr Ravi Agarwal
Mr. Ravi Agarwal has worked tirelessly on issues related to chemical safety and healthy communities in the developing world for two decades. A catalyst for change, he is the founder and director of Toxics Link, a non-profit organization based in New Delhi, India. Toxics Link works on areas of toxics, waste and chemical safety and has a strong information outreach program that uses research and advocacy to strengthen citizen campaigns against toxic pollution, to help to push industries towards cleaner production, and to link groups working on toxics, waste and chemical safety issues.
Toxics Link has been part of the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN ) since its inception in 1998 and is an IPEN Regional Hub for the South Asia region. Mr. Agarwal serves on both the Steering Committee and the Executive Board of IPEN, bringing his experience and perspective to a network that regularly participates in international processes that shape chemical safety discussions and policies. As the IPEN Hub for the South Asia Region, Toxics Link and Mr. Agarwal have helped increase NGO knowledge about POPs and other chemicals by, for example, holding capacity-building and skill-sharing workshops on POPs that are attended by participants from varied sectors and numerous countries throughout South Asia and other regions.
In addition, Toxics Link and Mr. Agarwal participate in other international networks including Healthcare Without Harm, GAIA (Global Anti-Incineration Alliance/Global Alliance of Incinerator Alternatives), Basel Action Network, and the Zero Mercury Working Group. Mr. Agarwal is also on both the advisory board of Khoj Artists Association (a well-known not-for-profit for the arts in India) and Tactical Tech, an UK-based international initiative to use new media techniques for advocacy in the social sector.
Toxics Link’s role in helping form Indian national legislation on bio-medical waste in 1998 was important and far-reaching. The legislation came about after four years of campaigning and research, and was the first legal recognition of the link between dioxin and waste in India. Toxics Link’s assistance in shaping the Indian law on this issue was innovative in a developing country and was subsequently replicated in other developing countries.
Additionally, Toxics Link and Mr. Agarwal began work on e-waste issues in 2002, and this work will result in a new Indian policy on e-waste shortly.
In early 2006, Toxics Link took the lead on a report about toxics in toys (Toying with Toxics: An Investigation of Lead and Cadmium in Soft Toys in Three Cities in India), exposing the fact that unsafe heavy metals can be found in toys that children play with. This pioneering report elevated local and national consciousness about an issue that subsequently became newsworthy in other areas of the world.
Confronting existing unsafe practices and their intertwined interests has had personal risks for Mr. Agarwal. In 2001, Toxics Link, in association with local farmer organizations, compiled the field case study, “The Killing Fields of Warangal,” which suggested the role that pesticides may have played in the death of farmers in Warangal. Mr. Agarwal then filed the study (along with a large body of data) as evidence of poor farming practices that resulted in unacceptable levels of pesticides and heavy metals contamination in food in India, imploring that “food safety” be better institutionalized in the country.
Mr. Agarwal regularly contributes articles to various publications, including, for example: The Curse of Tech Trash, found in Businessworld Online. He also frequently authors position papers such as Comments on the Draft Hazardous Materials Rules 2007, which he collaborated with the Basel Action Network.
Mr. Agarwal’s ability to build an institutional presence through the development of Toxics Link took a great deal of work and planning, and has resulted in a presence in the field that allows him to positively affect the chemical safety issues he focuses on. He has committed his life to the pursuit of chemical safety and environmental justice for the most vulnerable in society (women and children, peasant farmers and the poor and disadvantaged) by providing both research and advocacy to help ensure that they are protected against the worst of toxic impacts. He has worked vigorously to highlight the unsafe chemical practices inherent in many of India’s waste practices, as well as in toy production and pesticide use. This work has helped to elevate local and national consciousness about these issues, and has been integrated into national policy that has resonated internationally. Mr. Agarwal’s dedication to chemical safety and healthy communities is reflected in the work he has done over the past two decades and in how he continues to stand up for positive change both in India and around the world.