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Landmark UN-backed treaty on mercury takes off


PHOTO: United Nations

A ground-breaking global convention on mercury has goes into effect, the United Nations environment wing said, protecting millions of children and infants from possible neurological and health damage.

“Governments that are party to the Convention are now legally bound to take a range of measures to protect human health and the environment to protect human health and the environment by addressing mercury throughout its lifecycle,” the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said in a statement.

According to UNEP, up to 8,900 metric tonnes of mercury are emitted each year. It can be released naturally through the weathering of mercury-containing rocks, forest fires and volcanic eruptions, but significant emissions also come from human processes, particularly coal burning and artisanal and small-scale gold mining. Mining alone exposes up to 15 million workers in 70 different countries to mercury poisoning, including child labourers.

Other man-made sources of mercury pollution include the production of chlorine and some plastics, waste incineration and use of mercury in laboratories, pharmaceuticals, preservatives, paints and jewelry.

The Executive Director of SRADev Nigeria, Leslie Adogame said: “Mercury respects no boundaries and exposes people everywhere. Only a global pact can curtail this dangerous neurotoxin.

“On one hand we are elated that the global Convention has finally come to effect, but on the other hand, we feel disappointed that Nigeria is seating on the fence. Ratification is about ‘acceptance’ and commitment to the Convention”, said Leslie Adogame.

“For us who have been promoting national action since the inception of the process, “It is really a shame that Nigeria is not joining the League of Nations to COP1 as a ‘Party’ to the Convention, rather as an ‘Observer’.

“It is unacceptable that while many African countries ‘blazed the trail’ to ratify, we simply lagged behind after four years of signing the Convention in 2013, whereas the Federal Executive Council (FEC) gave its approval as far back as April, 2017. The implication is that Nigeria will not be able to derive technical and financial support it could otherwise gain.

The first conference of the Parties will take place next month in Geneva, Switzerland. Over 1,000 delegates and around 50 ministers are expected to assemble in Geneva to celebrate and lay the groundwork for the treaty’s overall effectiveness.

The Minamata Convention joins three other UN conventions seeking to reduce impacts from chemicals and waste – the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.

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