United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has urged national institutions to take keen interest and help the fight against Mercury exposure, which has been proven by scientist to be a threat to human health.
Speaking at the launch of Ghana’s Initial Assessment Report on Mercury on Wednesday, September 5, Assistant Country Director of UNDP Louis Kuukpen called on leading national institutions to prioritize the implementation of recommendations in the report.
“The Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change call for the commitment of all stakeholders to ensure environmental sustainability. We at UNDP stand ready to continue to partner our government and other development partners to work towards the realization of these global goals,” said Mr. Kuukpen.
Ghana’s Initial Assessment Report on Mercury is a UNDP partnership with the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) aimed at setting the tone for national discussions on mercury management in Ghana.
Ghana, being a party to the Minamata Convention which aims to minimize and ultimately phase out mercury usage, undertook the assessment to understand the existing institutional and legal frameworks on mercury management, sources of mercury releases, the gaps that need to be filled, and actions required to ensure an effective implementation of the Convention.
Sources of major mercury release in Ghana as captured in the assessment report include: gold extraction with mercury, mostly by artisanal small-scale gold miners, use and disposal of mercury-added products, waste incineration and open waste burning and a few others.
The mercury releases, according to the report, are mostly emitted into the air, followed by water and land.
Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation Prof. Kwabena Frimpong Boateng, who was at the event, expressed the government’s satisfaction on stakeholder’s efforts in the assessment.
He stressed his ministry is commitment to providing adequate support for the implementation of the recommended actions identified.
“Government will not relent in its effort to deal with illegalities in artisanal and small-scale gold mining, especially the use of mercury as this affects the environment,” he said.
The report also noted that though Ghana does not mine mercury, it imports mercury and mercury-containing products, which is mostly used by artisanal small-scale gold miners, educational and research institutions, healthcare facilities, meteorological services and other allied institutions.
In terms of the risk of mercury exposure, the report indicated that the most vulnerable groups are: communities close to water bodies and mining sites, patients, health personnel and people living close to health facilities that use mercury-added products and those living near waste incineration sites.
The report recommended the following towards the effective implementation of the Minamata Convention in Ghana include:
- Developing a legal framework that incorporates the obligations under the Minamata Convention as well as an administrative structure;
- Phasing-out the use of mercury-added products in the health sector and reducing the use of dental amalgam;
- Reducing and where feasible, eliminating the use of mercury and mercury compounds in artisanal small-scale gold mining;
- Reducing emissions and releases of mercury from the identified mercury releases sources; and
- Managing mercury waste in an environmentally-sound manner.