Convention to protect humans from mercury effects comes into force

A global treaty that seeks to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury has from today, August 16, come into force.

Ghana’s environmental group, Abibiman Foundation, has welcomed Minamata Convention on Mercury, which is this first new multilateral environmental agreement in over a decade, as a turning point for the plant and human health.

“From today, we have the opportunity to chart a new course; a course that is expected to control the anthropogenic releases of mercury throughout its lifecycle in order to protect people and the environment from the harmful effects of mercury and its related compounds,” said Kenneth Nana Amoateng, Executive Director of the Foundation.

The Minamata Convention was adopted in October 2013 but in accordance with Article 31, enters into force, ninety days after the date of deposit of the fiftieth instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, which happened on May 18, 2017.

According to the UN Environmental Programme (UNDP), exposure to mercury has debilitating effects on the brain and nervous system, digestive system and the kidney, among others. Memory loss and language impairment as well as harmful effects on unborn children and infants are also known to be products of exposure to mercury and environmental damage estimated at $22 billion.

From 2020, the Convention will ban the production, import and export of products that contain mercury, including blood pressure monitors, clinical thermometers, high-pressure mercury lamps, and topical antiseptic agents.

Until then, the Convention will encourage signatory countries to gradually reduce their use of mercury. In the case of small-scale gold mining, for which mercury is being used indiscriminately, the Convention has stipulated reduction in usage of mercury.

The treaty also states that for constructing coal-powered thermal power plants, the countries which are signatories will be required to include equipment to help minimize mercury emissions.

So far, there are 128 Signatories and 74 Parties to the Convention.

The Government of th Ghana signed the Convention on September 24, 2014 and ratified it on March 23, 2017.

Ghana’s main regulatory body, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has put together a national planning committee for ensuring the enforcement of the provisions of the Convention.

The Abibiman Foundation has called on the EPA to adopt a ‘bottom-up’ rather than a ‘top-down’ approach to ensure all relevant stakeholders are actively involved in the process.

The Foundation also demands among others, research into sources of illegal mercury imports, including the existing or likely mercury entry points into Ghana, and the distribution networks within the country; and transparency in the implementation of the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

The Government of Ghana has also been asked to make available resource allocation for the National Action Plan to address challenges relating to the reduction and elimination of Mercury.

By Kofi Adu Domfeh||Ghana

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