Works begins mercury use treaty accession

Work has begun to assist Pacific island nations start the preliminary steps towards signing up to an international treaty on the use and management of the chemical mercury.

To be done under the auspices of the Minamata Initial Assessment Project [M.I.A.], a virtual meeting was held recently for eight island governments, with the goal of bringing together focal points and national stakeholders to inform them of efforts to be undertaken in the context of the project and to ensure its implementation.

A media statement released by the Apia-based Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme [S.P.R.E.P.] says the governments of Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, Niue, Palau, Kiribati, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu will be assisted to develop national mercury profiles.

The formulation of national mercury profiles is a key step in early preparations for acceding to and implementing the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

The Minamata Convention is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury and entered into force on 16 August 2017. It draws special attention to a global and ubiquitous metal that, while naturally occurring, has broad uses in everyday products  and is released to the atmosphere, soil and water from a variety of sources.

Mercury which is a natural element that is indestructible and is highly toxic. Its toxicity affects the health of fish, birds and humans.

The S.P.R.E.P. Hazardous Waste Management Advisor, Joshua Sam, talked about the importance of the project during the virtual inception workshop. 

“As we all know, the history of mercury is an important one for our region,” he said.

“Although statistics show that the Pacific does not contribute much to global mercury emissions, we all know that mercury does move around and therefore we will be impacted, so we do not want to be complacent.”

“The M.I.A. Project will enable us to measure and carry out efforts to help our Member countries improve their capacity to manage mercury.”

The project activities will be undertaken by local consultants and the U.S.-based international consultant, Biodiversity Research Institute [B.R.I.].

B.R.I. will work with the various country focal points and local consultants to conduct institutional and regulatory assessments and use the findings to develop mercury profiles for their countries. Each participating country will also be assisted to develop mercury inventories which will enable them to map mercury contaminated sites and hotspots for ongoing monitoring.

The M.I.A. project is funded by the Global Environment Facility [G.E.F.] through the United Nations Environment Programme [U.N.E.P.] as the implementing agency. The S.P.R.E.P. is the project’s executing agency and will execute, manage and be responsible for the project and its activities on a day-to-day basis.

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