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Historic Minamata Convention on Mercury Comes into Force from 16 August 2017

New Delhi:On 16 August 2017, the  Minamata convention comes into force, which is a historic moment for the entire world as this treaty is first of its kind to address the adverse impacts from Mercury. This heavy  metal mercury is recognized as one of the most toxic metals known to humans and is a global pollutant necessitating concerted global action.  Minamata Convention is a global treaty designed to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds. The name ‘Minamata’ is of symbolic importance as the city in Japan went through a distressing incident of mercury poisoning impacting more than ten thousand population due to  release of mercury compound into the bay area.

Mercury is a toxic metal and once  released into environment, it bio-accumulates and biomagnifies up in the food chain, and easily enters human body passing through skin, blood-brain & placental barrier and impact the nervous system. The world community decided to get rid of mercury and mercury compounds and the convention was a result of three years of intense negotiations, after which the text of the Convention was approved by delegates representing close to 140 countries on 19 January 2013 in Geneva. It was adopted and signed later that year on 10 October 2013 at a Diplomatic Conference held in Kumamoto, Japan. The treaty has been signed by 128 countries and as of now 74 countries have ratified the treaty which comes into force from 16 August 2017. Being part of  global action India participated actively in the negotiation process making significant contribution in finalization of treaty text and has also signed the  treaty though has not ratified it as yet and hence not a party to this treaty and global effort.

The treaty  attempts to address both the supply and demand side  of  mercury,  eventually phasing out global mercury mining  and substituting or gradually phasing out its use in products and processes. This international agreement also mandates  reduction of mercury pollution from  targeted activities, which are responsible for major release of mercury into  environment and  includes  emission from thermal power plants. It also has provision to regulate and control  international trade in mercury and stipulates a very robust motoring and reporting mechanism to be followed by nations thus reducing the overall adverse impacts of mercury on human health.

India has already  initiated various measures to reduce the use of mercury and resultant pollution, it has successfully shifted all its chlor alkali plants from mercury to alternate technology, other efforts include shifting use of other products such as mercury containing measuring instruments, standards for mercury bearing lamps and regulatory controls on skin whitening creams. Reducing   emissions of mercury from thermal power plants continues to be  a challenge for the country. “The country  further requires concerted effort in addressing all issues related to mercury and its adverse effects on human health and environment hence the importance and the need to ratify the treaty  and be part of the global effort and help India access both technology and funds also critical for India to be part of the decision making process by being a party to the convention said Satish Sinha Associate Director Toxics Link”.

This is a unique treaty with  some of the best elements drawn from other environmental treaties to deal  with just one  heavy metal mercury and is a great moment to celebrate the coming into force on 16 August 2017.

About Toxics Link (www.toxicslink.org)

Toxics Link is an environmental research and advocacy organisation set up in 1996 by The Just Environment Charitable Trust. It lays a special emphasis on reaching out to numerous grassroots groups; community based organisations and the public at large through its empirical study-based information on Environmental issues.Toxics Link works closely with all other stakeholders who are working on similar issues and has played a seminal role in facilitating the development of several common platforms for them at the national, regional as well as international levels

For more Information :

Aastha Elawadhi                                                                                                         Satish Sinha
Senior Programme Officer – Communication                                              Associate Director
aastha@toxicslink.org                                                                                               satish@toxicslink.org    

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