The Union cabinet on Wednesday approved a proposal for ratification of the Minamata Convention, a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from adverse effects of mercury.
After joining the Convention, it will now be easier for India to get technological or financial assistance to address issues related to mercury.
“The approval entails ratification of the Minamata Convention on mercury along with flexibility for continued use of mercury-based products and processes involving mercury compound up to 2025,” an official statement said.
The government stressed that the convention will “urge enterprises to move to mercury-free alternatives in products and non-mercury technologies in manufacturing processes” and will “drive research and development, and promote innovation”.
“The convention will be implemented in the context of sustainable development with the objective to protect human health and environment from the anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds,” the statement added.
Till now, the convention has 88 ratifications and 144 signatories including India, which signed it on 30 September 2014. India had actively participated in the negotiating process, making significant contributions in finalizing the treaty text but had not ratified it till now.
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India’s neighbours – Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan – are also signatories to the convention. But only Sri Lanka has ratified it.
In October 2013, at a conference in Kumamoto (Japan), the convention was formally adopted. The major highlights of the convention include a ban on new mercury mines, the phase-out of existing ones, the phase-out and phase-down of mercury use in a number of products and processes. It also addresses interim storage of mercury and its disposal once it becomes waste, and sites contaminated by mercury as well as health issues.
The first Conference of the Parties (CoP) under the Minamata Convention took place in Geneva, Switzerland last year but India had not ratified it till then.
Mercury is considered by experts to be one of the most toxic metals known. Once released into the environment, mercury bio-accumulates and bio-magnifies in the food chain, and easily enters the human body and impacts the nervous system. The treaty aims at protecting human health and the environment from its adverse effects.