How much mercury is released in Belize? Print
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Friday, 25 January 2019 00:00

The Basel Convention Regional Centre for Training and Technology Transfer for the Caribbean (BCRC-Caribbean), in collaboration with the Department of Environment in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development, held a National Inception Workshop for the project, “Development of Minamata Initial Assessment in the Caribbean (Belize)” at the Best Western Plus on January 23, 2019. There, participants, which included representatives from several key stakeholders, were familiarized with the Minamata Convention on Mercury and the Minamata Initial Assessment (MIA) and organized meetings and site visits with consultants to facilitate data collection.

Participants were from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development through the Department of Environment; the Ministry for Health; the Ministry of Investment and Trade; the Ministry of the Attorney General, Ministry of Natural Resources and Immigration, Ministry of Economic Development and Petroleum, Ministry of Human Development and the medical, dental, energy, waste, environment and education public and private sectors. They heard opening remarks from Edgar Ek, Deputy Chief Environmental Officer of the Department of Environment and presentations from project staff from the BCRC-Caribbean including Marco Manzanilla, National Project Coordinator for the inventory; Dr. David Evers, International Technical Expert from the Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI); and Judy Daniel, Legal Consultant from Environmental Advisors Inc.

Tahlia Ali-Shah, Project Execution Officer, BCRC-Caribbean, spoke more on the project. According to Shah, although mercury exists naturally, human waste and activities lead to its release in surplus amounts in our waterways and in our land. Mercury stays in the body and when there is continuous exposure, there can be negative effects on women of childbearing ages, fetuses, and children affecting their motor function and neurological disorders. It works itself up the food chain especially in larger fish.

The project itself it split into parts: the legislative and institutional capacity assessments which, according to Shah, looks at the gaps in the government to implement the convention; and the inventory study looking at the different sources of mercury release in the country and to quantify the top three main categories for mercury uses. This is the third type of project being carried out in the Caribbean and has been done in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Kitts & Nevis, and St. Lucia and Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, and St. Vincent & the Grenadines, making Belize the 9th country to do it.

The objectives of the MIA are as follows: assessing the institutional and regulatory frameworks and national capacities on mercury management; conducting a national inventory of mercury sources and releases; developing strategies for the identification of mercury-contaminated sites; assessing the challenges, needs and opportunities to implement the Minamata Convention and developing recommendations to implement the Convention; and identifying and implementing effective national awareness-raising and communication-outreach strategies.

The Minamata Convention on Mercury, which came into effect on August 16, 2017, is a multifaceted environmental agreement, which aims to protect human health and the environment from the negative effects of mercury, a highly toxic element which is considered a major public health concern by the World Health Organization. Although Belize is currently not a party to the Minamata Convention, the Government of Belize has indicated that they are actively considering becoming one. It is expected that a proper assessment will be done by the end of the year through which Belize will make its final decision to participate in the MIA.

Parties to the Convention are obligated to phaseout the use of certain mercury-added products by 2020 and should Belize decide to be a Party to the Convention, we will bear that responsibility. We will be accountable to implementing measures which will reduce mercury emissions from products and processes, and to provide environmentally-sound management options for storage and disposal of mercury and mercury waste. Technical assistance for the project is being provided by the UN Environment, the implementing agency; and the BCRC-Caribbean, the project execution agency.

Last Updated on Friday, 25 January 2019 14:17