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Ghana to ban production, import of mercury products by 2020

Ghana, together with other countries, will, by 2020, ban the production, exportation and importation of some mercury-containing products. The products include dry cell batteries, switches and relays, certain types of compact florescent lamps, soap and cosmetics and some non-electronic medical devices such as thermometers and blood pressure devices.

This was made known at the opening of a three-day joint inception workshop for the development of the Minamata Initial Assessment on the Minamata Convention on Mercury and a National Action Plan for artisanal and small-scale gold mining in the country.

The workshop was to raise awareness among policy makers and the public of the health hazards of mercury on humans and the environment and the need for a national action. It was attended by various stakeholders such as policy makers, non-governmental organisations, members of academia, environmentalists and development partners.

The workshop was organised against the backdrop of the Minamata Convention which was ratified by 128 countries, including Ghana. The Minamata Convention on Mercury is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury. It was agreed at the fifth session of the Inter-governmental Negotiating Committee in Geneva, Switzerland, in January 2013 and adopted at a diplomatic conference (conference of plenipotentiaries) held in Kumamoto, Japan, on October 10, 2013.

The convention draws attention to a global and ubiquitous metal that while naturally occurring, has broad uses in everyday objects and is released into the atmosphere, soil and water from a variety of sources.

Controlling the anthropogenic releases of mercury throughout its life cycle has been a key factor in shaping the obligations under the convention. Major highlights of the Minamata Convention include a ban on new mercury mines, the phasing out of existing ones, the phasing out and phasing down of mercury use in a number of products and processes, control measures on emissions into the air and on releases to land and water and the regulation of the informal sector of artisanal and small-scale gold mining. The convention also addresses interim storage of mercury and its disposal once it becomes waste, sites contaminated by mercury, as well as health issues.

Ghana’s commitment

The Chief Director at the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI), Madam Salimata Abdul Salam, said the joint inception meeting formed part of the country’s preparation towards the ratification of the convention.

She said Ghana needed to strengthen its existing capacities and infrastructure for the sound management of mercury and its associated waste.

Ratification

The Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Mr John Pwamang, said Ghana recognised the dangers posed by mercury and mercury-containing products and waste and, therefore, signing and ratifying the convention was an admission of the country’s commitment to the international community to achieve its objectives.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), in solidarity messages, commended Ghana for the steps it was taking to ratify the convention.

They all pledged their technical and other support to ensure that the country duly ratified the convention.

Source: Graphic Online