Newswise — Portland, ME—Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI), working as an executing agency for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), is now conducting Minamata Initial Assessment (MIA) activities in Cabo Verde, Chad, Guatemala, Nepal, Sao Tome and Principe, and Sri Lanka. MIAs are designed to assist countries in developing strategies to ratify and ultimately implement the Minamata Convention on Mercury.
“Mercury pollution is globally pervasive, but its toxic effects are most concerning in those places where people consume a diet high in seafood, such as in island or coastal states,” says David Evers, executive director of BRI and co-lead of the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Mercury Air Transport and Fate Research Partnership. “That’s why it is imperative that not only these particular countries, but all nations around the world, ratify this Convention, which limits the use and spread of mercury in the environment.”
Opened for signature in October 2013, the Minamata Convention on Mercury is the first major environmental treaty since the Kyoto Protocol came into effect in 2005. The Convention addresses issues related to the use and release of mercury through trade, industrial uses, and atmospheric emissions, as well as the long-term storage and disposal of mercury and mercury compounds.
“Participants at our early training sessions in Chad have included high-level cabinet officials from the Ministry of the Environment and Fisheries, and we are pleased to see that their government is placing such a high priority on this critical work,” says Dominique Bally Kpokro, a BRI consultant and international mercury expert from Ivory Coast, who is conducting MIA-related training in Chad.
MIAs help countries determine steps they must take to ratify and subsequently implement the Convention, which includes a ban on new mercury mines and the phase out of existing mines, along with controls on air emissions, and regulations on artisanal and small-scale gold mining.
In addition to its work with UNIDO, BRI is also serving as an international consultant for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Republic of Seychelles, Mauritius, and Georgia. This work will further help countries meet their obligations under the Minamata Convention through the MIA process, including assistance in reviewing national environmental legislation. “Countries understand the importance of the Minamata Convention and are acutely aware of the legal needs of the treaty,” says Richard Gutierrez, BRI adjunct international environmental lawyer based in British Columbia, Canada.
“We are encouraged to see countries from around the world signing the Convention and working diligently to meet its requirements,” says Evers. “Because mercury pollution is so widespread and because mercury has such negative effects on human and wildlife health, this is a problem that requires a global response.”
Biodiversity Research Institute, headquartered in Portland, Maine, is a nonprofit ecological research group whose mission is to assess emerging threats to wildlife and ecosystems through collaborative research, and to use scientific findings to advance environmental awareness and inform decision makers. BRI supports ten research programs within three research centers including the Center for Mercury Studies, which was initiated in 2011. Visit www.briloon.org/mercury for more information.