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| Last Updated:29/05/2020

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Mercury ban in India within 6 to 10 years

 NEW DELHI: India will have to phase out mercury within six to 10 years as the country has signed a global treaty - Minamata Convention - which makes it mandatory for the signatories to ban the use of the deadly nerve toxin in a phased manner.


The move will protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury which is currently being used in lighting and many healthcare products including clinical thermometers, blood pressure monitors and topical antiseptic agents.


Though the Convention will ban the production, import and export of products that contain mercury by 2020, it will allow its use in certain critical areas, specifically healthcare, for the next four years. The Convention gives the countries another 15 years to end all mercury mining.


In the meantime, the countries who signed the Convention will be encouraged to gradually reduce their use of mercury, one of the most notorious heavy metals.


India signed the global treaty at an event on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on Wednesday - a year after the adoption of the Minamata Convention on Mercury. India, by signing it, has joined the club of 120 countries who have done this so far. The United States had joined the Convention last November.


The treaty has been named after a Japanese city - Minamata - that had witnessed one of the worst incidents of industrial poisoning by mercury in 1950s.


In India, this dangerous metal has nearly 3,000 industrial applications. Besides healthcare products, it is also used in paints, cosmetics, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), electrical switches and fertilisers.


According to a Delhi-based advocacy group Toxics Link, India, at present, does not produce any mercury, and all its domestic demands are met through imports. It imported 165 tons of mercury in 2012-13, out of which 45 tons were exported to other countries in the same year, which reflects the rest is being used for internal product manufacturing.


It said the mercury usage in various products and processes account for a large amount of mercury waste that ultimately end up in air, soil, surface and groundwater.


"The CFL sector alone generates 8.3 tons of mercury waste annually, which ultimately land up in the cities' landfills/ become air borne and pose grave threat to the environment," said the group that has been working for a toxics-free world and pitching for its ban for long in India and elsewhere.


Sep 26, 2014, The Times of India