Tonga works on Minamata Convention on Mercury

NUKU’ALOFA, 29 AUGUST 2018 (ENVIROMENNT NEWS) – Tonga is now working on ratifying and implementing the Minimata Convention on Mercury.

The Minamata Convention on Mercury, which was adopted in January 2013, is an international treaty designed to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds.

That work started in Nuku’alofa this morning with the launch of the ‘Minimata Initial Assessment (MIA) Project’ inception workshop by the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change and Communications (MNEIDECC), Paula Ma’u.

In his opening address Ma’u said Tonga is committed to protect human health and the environment and has submitted to the Privy Council, through MEIDECC, the hope to accede to the Minamata Convention.

“This workshop could not come at a better time, as the outcome for Tonga to become a party to the Convention will be known in a couple of days,” Ma’u said, highlighting the importance of the inception workshop.

He said sources of mercury in Tonga are mainly from importing of mercury containing products such as batteries, electrical appliances and health products such as amalgam filling, thermometres and pharmaceuticals.

The uses varies and some in-accordance with specific or acceptable purposes of importing mercury containing products. That is the use of mercury containing energy efficient compact fluorescent and T5 fluorescent lights to reduce fossil fuel consumption for electricity generation and related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

“The health impact of mercury varies from toxic to the nervous, digestive and immune systems, and to the lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes,” Ma’u said.

“Adults are also affected through occupational and consumer exposer.”

Ma’u added that a timeline of six months would be set to push the work through that needs to be done.

The Tongan government is working together with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) on the project to ensure that Tonga can adopt environmental friendly alternatives in the near future.

The Hazardous Waste Management Adviser, Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP), Apia, Samoa, Frank Griffin facilitated today’s inception workshop.

He told stakeholders that there is a need now to take stock of what Tonga has now and what needs to be done before work continues.

“This inception work is important so that we can discuss how we can move forward and see what needs to be done now. Initially the first step is to take stock of what we have and what we need to do,” he said.

Funding for the project here in Tonga has been provided through the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

Participants at the workshop included reps from the Department of Environment, Department of Energy, Department of Marine, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Finance, Tonga Power Limited, Tonga Water Board, Tonga Waste Management, Civil Society of Tonga and other partners.

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