The Minster for the Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Hon. Mahama Ayariga, has stressed the need to establish the relevant regulatory framework and structures to combat the threat posed by mercury and its compounds to human health and the environment.



Hon. Ayariga said it was essential that existing capacities and infrastructure were strengthened for the sound management of mercury and its associated waste in order to reduce the risks of exposure.


To that effect, he said, a Hazardous and Electronic Waste Control and Management Bill, which seeks to domesticate chemical-related international conventions such as the Basel and Stockholm Conventions, would soon be introduced in Parliament.


These were contained in an address delivered on his behalf in Accra, yesterday, at an inception workshop for the Ratification and Early Implementation of the Minamata Convention on Mercury Project in Ghana.


The Minamata Convention, which was adopted by the Conference of Plenipotentiaries on October 10, 2013 in Japan, aims to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds.


The Convention was opened, after its adoption, for signature until the end of September 2014 and is expected to enter into force after 50 states have deposited their Instruments of Ratification, Acceptance and Accession.


To date, 128 countries have signed the agreement while 18 have ratified it. Ghana signed the Convention in September 2014 but has not yet ratified it.


The workshop, therefore sought to initiate the processes of ratification and early implementation of the Convention in Ghana.


It was organized under the auspices of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) with funding from the Government of Switzerland and Friends of the Nation (FoN), an environmental Non-Governmental Organization.


In an address, Mr Solomon Kusi Ampofo, Communications, Advocacy and Campaigns Co-ordinator, FoN, pledged the support of FoN to Ghana’s efforts at reducing the use of mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM).


Mr Ampofo said FoN’s support would come in the form of assisting the EPA to develop National Action Plans in accordance with the Minamata Convention.


In addition, he said, FoN would provide connections on policy issues and technical matters related to the reduction of mercury use in ASGM, adding that the initiative was part of the African Caribbean Pacific Multilateral Environmental Agreements Phase 2 (ACP MEAs 2)— a project funded by the European Commission and implemented by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, via the European Environmental Bureau/Zero Mercury Working Group (EEB/ZMWG).


The Ambassador of Switzerland in Ghana, His Excellency Gerhard Brugger, in a statement, assured Ghana and all other stakeholders of Switzerland’s continued support in ratification process and the implementation of the Convention.


For her part, Ms Karen Bel, First Secretary, Regional Environmental Office, Embassy of the United States of America in Ghana, said mercury demanded global attention and expressed satisfaction that global support to limit the effects of mercury was gaining momentum.


Ms Bel lauded the collaboration between EPA and FoN towards the implementation of the Convention. 


In a welcome statement, the Board Chairman of EPA, Prof Vincent Nartey, said the workshop presented an opportunity to discuss the elements of the Convention and the strategies that could be adopted at the national level to make the Convention an instrument for action and promote sustainable development.


Prof. Nartey said the Minamata Convention was expected to alert the world to the dangers and  severity of mercury pollution, adding that the Convention represented a global step forward to reduce exposure to mercury and its effects on the brain and nervous system, kidney and the digestive system as well as memory loss and language impairment, among others.


He said signing the instrument was an admission of Ghana’s commitment to international efforts to protect human health and the environment from the diverse dangers posed by mercury and mercury compounds.


The toxic properties of mercury manifested in a tragic episode in the Japanese City of Minamata in 1956 which poisoned fish stock and claimed the lives of 900 people who consumed poisoned sea food and left 2,265 people still suffering from mercury poisoning.


Despite the early discovery of the dangers of mercury, the chemical finds its application in several sectors of modern world and is a common ingredient in paints, pesticides, batteries, fluorescent light bulbs and thermometers, among others.


According to official records at EPA, Ghana imported, on the average, 11 metric tons of mercury per annum over the past five years, with imports as at the third quarter of 2015 standing at 1.78 metric tons.


Source: ISD (G.D. Zaney)



Created: 27 October 2015
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