Monday 20 July 2015

Minamata Convention | Mercury

The Minamata Convention:
  • The Minamata Convention on Mercury is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury, into force from 2013
  • The major highlights of the Minamata Convention on Mercury include 
    • a ban on new mercury mines, 
    • the phase-out of existing ones, 
    • control measures on air emissions, and 
    • the international regulation of the informal sector for artisanal and small-scale gold mining.
  • The Convention draws attention to a global and ubiquitous metal that, while naturally occurring, has broad uses in everyday objects and is released to the atmosphere, soil and water from a variety of sources. 
  • Controlling the anthropogenic releases of mercury throughout its lifecycle has been a key factor in shaping the obligations under the convention. 
  • The convention that took almost six years to take final shape is named after the Japanese city that, since the 1950s, has become synonymous with deadly mercury contamination and poisoning. 
  • The Minamata Convention is part of a cluster of agreements that include the Basel Convention on the control of transboundary movement of hazardous wastes and their disposal, the Rotterdam Convention for managing international trade in hazardous chemicals and pesticides, and the Stockholm Convention on the restriction and elimination of the production and use of persistent organic pollutants.
Minamata Convention and India:
  • A year after it was adopted, India joined the global mercury abatement agreement
  • The Minamata Convention gives India five years to control and, where feasible, to reduce emissions from new power plants and 10 years to do so for existing power plants. 


  • The Minamata Convention sets no quantitative targets and, truth be told, has a fairly weak mandate. 
  • In its present form, some critics have rightly pointed that it is more in the nature of a legal and political milestone. 
  • But its significance should not be underestimated. 
    • For the first time, the world community now has a clear roadmap for the abatement of this extremely toxic pollutant. 
  • The onus is especially on countries like India to demonstrate proactive leadership using the convention as an anchor not only to meet treaty obligations, but, more fundamentally, to ensure a healthier and safer environment for its own people.
[Sources: UNEP, LiveMint]


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