Wednesday 26 August 2020, Apia, Samoa – The Minamata Initial Assessment (MIA) project conducted a virtual inception meeting this afternoon. The main objective of the inception workshop was to bring together focal points and national stakeholders from Pacific island countries involved in the MIA project, to inform them of the efforts to be undertaken in the context of the project and to ensure its efficient implementation.
The MIA project’s main goal is to assist the governments of Cook Islands, Republic of Marshall Islands, Niue, Palau, Kiribati, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Tuvalu, to develop national profiles of mercury. This is a key step in early preparations for acceding to and effectively implementing the Minamata Convention on Mercury.
The Minamata Convention is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury and entered into force on 16 August 2017. The Convention draws special attention to a global and ubiquitous metal that, while naturally occurring, has broad uses in everyday products - and is released to the atmosphere, soil and water from a variety of sources.
Mercury is a liquid metal at ambient temperatures. It is a natural element that is indestructible and persistent, and its emissions can be transported across broad spatial scales in the air and water.
Mercury is highly toxic, especially in its organic form. It is released into the environment from natural and anthropogenic sources. The toxicity of mercury affects fish health, bird health, as well as human health. Its effects on human health includes impacting the nervous, renal and cardio-vascular systems.
Perhaps the best example of the extreme effects of mercury on people occurred in the city of Minamata in Japan, which the Minamata Convention is named after. Close to 2300 people suffered from mercury poisoning as a result of consuming shellfish and fish in the Minamata Bay that were contaminated by high concentrations of mercury discharged from a chemical plant,
The MIA project is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), through the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as the Implementing Agency. The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) is the project’s Executing Agency, and will execute, manage, and be responsible for the project and its activities on a day-to-day basis.
SPREP’s Hazardous Waste Management Adviser, Mr Joshua Sam, spoke on the importance of the project during the official opening of the virtual inception workshop, which is taking place due to the effects of COVID-19, resulting in the team not being able to travel to each country to conduct these important workshops.
“As we all know, the history of mercury is an important one for our region. Although statistics show that the Pacific does not contribute much to global mercury emissions, we all know that mercury does move around and therefore we will be impacted, so we do not want to be complacent.”
“The MIA Project will enable us to measure and carry out efforts to help our Member countries improve their capacity to manage mercury.”
The project activities will be undertaken by local consultants and the US based international consultant, Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI). BRI will work with the various country focal points and local consultants to conduct institutional and regulatory assessments and use the findings to develop mercury profiles for their countries. Each participating country will also be assisted to develop mercury inventories which will enable them to map mercury contaminated sites and hotspots for ongoing monitoring.
For more information on the MIA Project, please contact Ms Ngaire Ah Ching, MIA Project Coordinator, at [email protected].