UNDP supports Ghana to reduce the menace of mercury

Jan 26, 2017

A section of participants of the meeting (Photo credit: Barbara Mahama)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in partnership with UNDP and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) has held a three-day joint inception workshop in Accra on the menace of mercury in the country. The aim was to raise awareness among policy makers and the general public on the hazards of mercury to human lives and the environment, and also share insight on the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

This workshop was to kickstart the implementation of two projects: "Development of Minamata Initial Assessment for Ghana" and the "National Action Plan for Artisanal Small-Scale Goldminers", funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).  

In his opening remarks, the Executive Director of EPA, Mr. John Pwamang said Ghana has shown commitment to reduce or remove mercury menace by signing and ratifying the Minamata Convention, which recognizes the dangers posed by mercury and products containing mercury. “To make progress on this commitment, Ghana will mainstream the convention in national development plans”, he added.

UNDP currently supports 42 countries with a GEF mercury portfolio of $22 million in grants and $32 million in co-financing.  Supporting countries in their efforts to prepare for and meet their future commitments under the Minamata Convention is an important component of UNDP’s efforts to achieve sustainable, inclusive and resilient human development through the SDGs, which were adopted in September 2015.

“UNDP in Ghana is committed to the promotion of environmental sustainability and guided by the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change “, said Mr. Louis Kuukpen, UNDP Assistant Country Director. “As we begin the implementation of this project, I am confident that the commitment shown and the close partnerships created will continue to thrive and contribute to achieving the project goals. We stand ready to partner our government counterparts and development partners to work towards the realization of these global goals”.

The workshop, which began on Wednesday, January 25 at the Alisa Hotel in Accra, saw the active participation of Civil Society Organizations, mining practitioners, staff of UN agencies in Ghana, Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Ministry of Environment, Science & Technology (MESTI). Participants discussed and agreed on strategies for reducing the amount of mercury used in the country.

On his part, Mr. Etienne Gonnin, UNDP Programme Analyst at the Montreal Protocol Unit in Turkey said UNDP’s interest in the project is to ensure the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals, specifically 1, 2 3,7,8,12, and 14. The organization therefore seeks to raise funds to support the initiative with technical support from the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).  

The workshop was attended by about 150 people including members of the press.

Overview of the Minamata Convention

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Minamata Convention on Mercury is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from adverse effects of mercury. The treaty was agreed on 19 January 2013 and was later adopted on 10 October 2013 at a Diplomatic Conference (Conference of Plenipotentiaries), held in Kumamoto, Japan.

The Convention draws attention to mercury, a global metal that occurs naturally, has broad uses in everyday objects and is released to the atmosphere, soil and water from a variety of sources. UNEP points out that controlling the anthropogenic releases of mercury throughout its lifecycle has been a key factor in shaping the obligations under the Convention.

Major highlights of the Convention include a ban on new mercury mines, phase out of existing ones, phase out and phase down of mercury use in a number of products such as creams and medical equipment, control measures on emissions and releases to land and water. A major informal sector that must be regulated is the sector of artisanal and small-scale gold mining.

Some Facts about Mercury

Mercury is a chemical that occurs naturally and is commonly found in rocks and coal deposits. Mercury is dominantly used in the mining industries, health sector and in households. All humans are exposed to some level of mercury. While most people are exposed to low levels of it through continuous contact, others are exposed to high levels of it over a short period of time especially through industrial accidents.

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