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September 9, 2018

Experts pledge to work jointly for tackling sources of mercury toxicity


September 9, 2018

Islamabad: Environmental experts, industrialists and policymakers consensually said that controlling sources of mercury pollution or emissions and enhanced public education on its grave impacts can effectively help minimize the toxic chemical’s exposure to human health and environment, says a press release.

“Making Pakistan mercury free” is not possible without tackling the sources of the toxic mercury and it will require stringent policy, legal and public advocacy and awareness measures,” stressed Mr. Hammad Shamimi, joint secretary (international cooperation) at the Ministry of Climate Change.

Addressing as a chief guest at the concluding session of the three-day the national mercury toxicity assessment workshop, Shamimi, however, assured of the strong commitment of his climate change ministry to work with country’s environmental, health, education, industrial sector and educational institutions to eliminate the sources of mercury contamination.

The event was organized by the Ministry of Climate Change in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Global Environment Facility (GEF) here on Friday at a local hotel under its project the ‘Development of Miniamata Initial Assessment in Pakistan’.

Adopted in October 2013 in Kumamoto, Japan and ratified by 98 countries including Pakistan, the Minamata Convention comprises various mercury-control actions for it signatory countries, such as a ban on new mercury mines, the phase-out of existing ones, the phase-out and phase-down of mercury use in a number of products and processes, control measures on emissions to air and on releases to land and water.

Programme Officer at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Dr. Shunichi Honda said that mercury is a global pollutant and now there are more legitimate calls within these countries and from external stakeholders to manage it effectively to protect human health and environment from its debilitating effects.

Appreciating the seriousness of Pakistan and efforts of the climate change ministry, Dr. Honda of the UNEP said that it is heartening to see Pakistan taking all-out measures in collaboration with relevant government and non-governmental departments, industry and academia to make Pakistan mercury-free.

Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Climate Change, Mr. Mureed Rahimoon, spoke on the aims and objectives of the project and UNEP’s Minamata Convention on Mercury.

He said that the project aims for strengthening the baselines on mercury management in the country, developing national mercury inventories, piloting of sectoral action-plans as a follow-up of prioritization including indicative sampling and hammering out national mercury management plans.”

Assess the causes, sources and impacts of mercury and prepare the pave for Pakistan to permanently eliminate use of mercury at all level, particularly industrial and health sectors, are the key goals of the project, Mr. Rahimoon added.

Dr.Zaigham Abbas, National Coordinator for the Mercury Initial Assessment Project at the Ministry of Climate Change spoke on the objectives of the project.

He said that national assessment on existing sources of information (studies), compile and make them available, national awareness raising and outreach and awareness-raising strategy development, identification of stakeholders, development a qualitative and quantitative inventory of all mercury sources and releases and a national strategy to identify and assess mercury contaminated sites are among key objectives of the project.

Environmental scientist at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Dr. Mahmood A. Khwaja, said that his organisation’s research conducted in collaboration with the climate change ministry found that high levels of mercury presence was found at hospitals in Islamabad and Rawalpindi , which pose a serious risk to the lives of patients and other visiting people and surrounding environment.

He underlined need for inclusion of topics about mercury toxicity, their impacts, sources and causes and methods to avoid human exposure to it and its impacts is vital to increasing public awareness.

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