UN committee seeks to work out a treaty on mercury
NEW DELHI: The Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee will work
to prepare a globally binding instrument on mercury at a session organised by
United Nations Environment Programme. The session, which began in Geneva on
Saturday, will continue till Jan 18.
"The treaty is expected to include actions to reduce among
other things, the supply and trade of mercury, its use in products and
atmospheric emissions, which will ultimately reduce human exposure to mercury
globally," says Satish Sinha, associate director, Toxics Link, who is also
in the committee.
The United Nations Environment
Programme (UNEP) Global Mercury Assessments, finalized
in December 2002, underlined the following points: (a) the global scale and
severity of toxic mercury contaminations of life forms and ecosystems in all
regions of the planet (b) as a toxic substance of global concern, mercury
causes significant harm to wildlife, ecosystems and human health in general and
to some populations, most notably the foetus and young children who are
especially susceptible; and (c) mercury is a major threat to fish which is an
all important and valuable nutritious component of the human diet.
Mercury, contained in coal and other minerals, is released into
the air mainly from thermal power plants and metal-smelting facilities.
According to Sinha, the technology is available to manage mercury
pollution, but political will is in short supply. "We know how to control
mercury emissions. There are mercury-free alternatives for nearly all
mercury-containing products and industrial processes. What is missing is the
political will to make the necessary commitments to phase out its use and put
the needed controls and alternatives in place," he says.
As a step to reduce global mercury pollution, the United Nations
General Assembly on the environment in 2009 adopted a decision to develop a
legally binding instrument on mercury.