Zambia has ratified the Minamata Convention on Mercury at the 7th session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Mercury currently ongoing in the Jordanian capital Amman, near the Dead Sea.
Zambia is the 24th to ratify the international convention, signed in 2013 under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and requiring ratification by 50 countries to enter into force.
The Minamata Convention provides controls and reductions across a range of products, processes and industries that use mercury, from devices such as thermometers and energy-saving light bulbs to the mining, cement and coal fired power industries.
According to the UN, the meeting which is taking place from March 10 to 15 in Jordan has convened over 550 government representatives, stakeholders and experts to put final touches to the international convention, named after the Japanese city where thousands were poisoned by mercury-tainted industrial water.
According to a statement by the UN, the UNEP Deputy Executive Director Ibrahim Thiaw issued a strong call for countries to accelerate the implementation of the Convention in order to “deliver meaningful impact on the ground and solve a lethal and often-invisible issue.”
Mercury and its various compounds have a range of serious impacts on human health, including brain and neurological damage especially among the young, and damage to the digestive system and kidneys.
Victims can also suffer memory loss and language impairment, alongside many other well-documented problems.
According to the UN Environment Programme, mercury when released from industry and other man-made sources, can circulate in the environment for centuries, meaning that it will likely take several years or decades before reductions in its emissions have a demonstrable effect on mercury levels in nature and the food chain.
“Decisive action to limit the release of mercury into the environment is a public health priority that can also bring multiple benefits for the environment, productivity increases, poverty reduction, security and economic growth of countries, ultimately enabling their sustainable development,” the UNEP says.
By Emmanuel Odonkor