Law Review

Bangladesh’s ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury

Ambassador Muhammad Abdul Muhith, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN in New York, handed over the Instrument of Ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury from the Government of Bangladesh to the UN. Photo: Star

On 18 April 2023, Bangladesh ratified the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which will enter into force for Bangladesh on 17 July 2023. The Minamata Convention on Mercury is an international treaty which has been adopted to protect human health and environment from exposure to mercury.

We might know mercury from the red line that indicates our temperature in the old-styled thermometers. But the use of mercury is not limited to thermometers. Mercury is also used in barometers, manometers, sphygmomanometers, firearms, mercury switches, makeup items, fluorescent lamps, dental amalgams, etc. However, the element mercury is extremely toxic, which has led to its use being decreased in thermometers and sphygmomanometers.

Mercury poisoning and mercury pollution over the years have become a real threat to human health and the environment. Due to the dumping of mercury waste compounds into Minamata Bay in Japan between 1932 and 1968, over 3000 people suffered from deformities, mercury poisoning, and even death. World Health Organization (WHO) treats exposure to mercury as an occupational hazard and mercury is among the top 10 chemicals causing major public health concerns.

The incident in Minamata Bay brought the issue of mercury poisoning and mercury pollution to prominence. In 2003, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) through a global assessment found sufficient evidence of significant global adverse impacts from mercury and its compounds, which made it essential to take international action to reduce its risks to human health and the environment. Finally, through years of discussions and negotiations, the Minamata convention on Mercury was adopted and opened for signature on 10 October 2013.

Bangladesh's ratification of the convention is no surprise. According to the Government of Bangladesh, by joining the Convention, Bangladesh has reaffirmed its strong commitment to global efforts in reducing mercury pollution. In 2019, the Department of Environment, after a year-long study found dangerous levels of mercury in both our air and water. In addition, due to the absence of a proper disposal mechanism, mercury even ends up in food items.

As a result of this ratification, Bangladesh is under an international obligation to not allow the mining of mercury in its territory after the Convention enters into force. Bangladesh will also have to disallow the export of mercury, except for the circumstances permitted in the Convention. In addition, Bangladesh must stop the manufacture, import, or export of mercury-added products listed in Part I of Annex A of the treaty after the phase-out date specified for those products, barring some exceptions. This also extends to the manufacturing process of products that includes mercury or mercury compounds. As a result, such products must be processed excluding mercury from the procedure.

Further, article 8(3) of the Convention obliges Bangladesh to take measures to control emissions and if required, prepare a national plan setting out the measures to be taken to control emissions and its expected targets, goals, and outcomes. Besides, article 9 requires that the release of mercury and mercury compounds be controlled. In matters regarding managing and disposing of mercury wastes, in addition to the treaty, Bangladesh must also abide by the requirements of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal.

To abide by the provisions of the Convention, Bangladesh, as a developing country, will have access to mechanisms such as the Global Environment Facility Trust Fund and a specific international programme to support capacity-building and technical assistance. The Trust Fund is set to provide new, predictable, adequate, and timely financial resources to meet costs in support of the implementation of the Convention. A Committee, working as a subsidiary body of the Conference of the Parties, will review Bangladesh's compliance with the provisions of the Convention. Bangladesh will have to report to the Conference of the Parties, through the Secretariat, on the measures it has taken to implement the provisions of this Convention and whether such measures have been effective.

Bangladesh has been a party to a significant number of international agreements and treaties related to the environment. However, not all the obligations under these instruments have been discharged. Bangladesh needs to abide by the requirements of the Minamata Convention to safeguard itself from the threat of mercury poisoning and mercury pollution.

The Writer is a Lecturer of Law, Port City International University.

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৭ ঘণ্টা আগে|শিক্ষা

‘চলমান মেগা প্রকল্পগুলো শেষ হলে, শিক্ষাখাতে মেগাপ্রকল্প শুরু করা যাবে’

শিক্ষামন্ত্রী দীপু মনি বলেছেন, 'আমাদের যে মেগা প্রকল্পগুলো চলছে, সেগুলোর কাজ শেষ হলে আমি বিশ্বাস করি শিক্ষাখাতে মেগা প্রকল্পের কাজ শুরু করা যাবে। শিক্ষাই হবে আমাদের মেগাপ্রজেক্ট।'