Communities in developing countries are facing increasing health and environmental risks linked to exposure to mercury, according to new studies by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The is contained in a statement issued by UNEP in Nairobi and received by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Thursday.
The UNEP studies stated that parts of Africa, Asia and South America could experience increasing emissions of mercury into the environment.
They attributed the development to the use of the toxic element in small-scale gold mining, and through the burning of coal for electricity generation.
The Global Mercury Assessment 2013, reported that emissions of the toxic metal from artisanal gold mining had doubled since 2005 partly due to new and better information as well as rising gold prices. Due to rapid industrialisation, Asia is the largest regional emitter of mercury, and accounts for just under half of all global releases, the report stated.
The UNEP study assessed for the first time a global level releases of mercury into rivers and lakes. The studies noted that much human exposure to mercury was through the consumption of contaminated fish, making aquatic environments the critical link to human health. “In the past 100 years, man-made emissions have caused the amount of mercury in the top 100 metres of the world’s oceans to double.
“Concentrations in deeper waters have increased by up to 25 per cent,’’ the study noted.
The studies, which provided a comprehensive breakdown of mercury emissions by region and economic sector, also highlighted significant releases into the environment linked to contaminated sites and deforestation. They stated that an estimated 260 tonnes of mercury – previously held in soils – were being released into rivers and lakes.
The statement said that along with a parallel UNEP publication entitled “Mercury: Time to Act’’, the new assessment would be formally presented at the International Negotiating Committee on Mercury (INC5), to be held in Geneva from January 13 to January 18, 2013. It added that governments attending the major conference would seek to conclude discussions on a global legally binding treaty to minimise risks to people and the environment from exposure to mercury.
This, it said, would reduce cases of neurological and behavioral disorders, among other health problems linked to mercury, as well as the contamination of soils and rivers caused by man-made emissions of the metal.
Governments gave the green light to negotiations towards a global treaty in 2009 at the UNEP Governing Council held in Nairobi, Kenya. “Mercury, which exists in various forms, remains a major global, regional and national challenge in terms of threats to human health and the environment. “In 2009 at the UNEP Governing Council, nations agreed to launch negotiations for a legally binding treaty aimed at bringing down releases from sources such as industry and mining, address mercury-containing products, and tackle historical pollution sites—the final negotiations.
Sanitation Marshalls Warn Against Dumping Refuse In Gutters
The Coordinator of Rivers
State Sanitation Marshalls, Prince Sodin Akiaba has warned residents of Port Harcourt and it environs against dumping of refuse into drainages.
Speaking in an interview with The Tide in Port Harcourt, Prince Akiabo blamed uses of flooding in parts of Port Harcourt especially in the Mile III area of the indiscriminate dumping of refuse into the gutters.
He said that with the approach of the rainy season, there is need for caution on the part of the people against indiscriminate refuse disposal.
Prince Akiaba said that the situation could lead to massive flooding across the city thereby creating health problem for the people.
He said that there is need for neighbourhood vigilantees to check this situation.
“Every street in Port Harcourt should formed a vigilantee to monitor refuse disposal in their street.
“This is the only way to stop the indiscriminate dumping of refuse in the drains,” he said.
The coordinator said that the sanitation marshalls can help the government to check this trend, if approval is given to that effect by the government.
He used the occasion to commend the Rivers State Ministry of Environment and the Rivers State Environmental Sanitation Authority for the efforts in keeping the city clean, but noted that the two agencies need to work with stakeholders for effective result.
NOSDRA Seeks Oil Spill Response Base
The National Oil Spill De
tection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) has called on the military to establish an Oil Spill Response Base (OSRB) for quick intervention during oil spill emergencies.
Mr Peter Idabor, the Director General of the agency, made the call during a courtesy visit to Vice Admiral Usman Jibril, the Chief of Naval Staff, in Abuja.
Idabor said the base, if established, would serve as a veritable security for quick response and intervention by the agency during oil spill emergencies.
He recalled the Bonga oil spill incident and commended the Navy for providing a vessel to NOSDRA that ensured quick response.
According to him, crises usually occurred between affected communities and companies involved during oil spill emergencies.
He said partnership with the Navy had become critical due to its role in providing security to the maritime environment.
“It has become more critical for us to partner with the Nigerian Navy, especially when it has to do with issues relating to oil spill in this country.
“When there is a large oil spill, there is usually conflict between the community and the company involved.
“In most cases, it is sabotage and in such cases, we require the military to come in at certain point.’’
He said that most of the deaths in the Niger Delta had positive correlations with oil spillage.
He explained that people were at the risk of being affected by eating food that come from such polluted environment.
He also said the life span of most Nigerians was shortening due to the effect oil spill on the ecosystem.
“The attitudes of our oil explorers, especially when spills occur, it does not bother them that over a million of chemicals are spilled into the sea, which is very dangerous to health.
“The oil spill contaminate our aquatic resources and it affects the entire food chain as long as we survive on the food chain.’’
Responding, Jibril said the Navy was familiar with the operation of the agency, adding that it would support NOSDRA to stop oil spill in the country.
He said the force was also aware of the effects of oil spill to aquatic life and the environment.
The Navy Chief also commended the agency’s cooperation with the military, saying “you have reduced spillage and its attendant effects in the country within this few days.
“We are ready to contribute to stop oil spillage and we are ready to give to you information about spillage whenever they occur.
“Our new boats that we are importing from China have facilities to contain oil spillage.’’
He however, said the delay in the release of boats to the agency was to control their misuse and advised the agency’s management to henceforth, put in its administrative request at their time of need.
He gave an assurance that the Navy would reduce administrative bottlenecks to enable the agency to access the facility during emergencies.
Jibril, however, sought the support of NOSDRA in the provision of infrastructure to the force, saying, “we need to support one another to achieve our goals.
“We have the human capital base to do what we are trained to do; what we need more is the infrastructure and we call on other organisations to support us too.’’
N300m Debt Worries C’River Water Board
Mr James Buchan, the
General Manager (Operations) of Cross River State Water Board, said more than N300 million owed it by various consumers in the state posed a challenge to its operations.
Buchan said this in an interview with the newsmen in Calabar last week, saying that the board was worried about the debt.
He said the board spent an average of N25 million monthly on diesel and chemicals to sustain water supply, urging the consumers who owed to settle their bills.
The general manager said that the state government paid its water bills regularly, urging the consumer’s to emulate the government by paying their bills to avoid disconnection.
Buchan further advised the consumers to always make genuine complaints about the services of the board to guarantee uninterrupted clean water supply.
The manager also urged consumers to shun illegal connection and to report to the board, those, including its staff members, who engaged in fraudulent activities.
“We want to supply to the public well treated water, we want to provide 24 hours service to the people, but we can only do this with the help of the people,’’ he said.
Buchan promised that Geographic Information System had been put in place to streamline the operations of the board and improve services.
He said the board was also worried over the damage of its pipelines worth more than N300 million by road construction companies in the state.
Buchan said the board had, however, drawn the attention of the officials of the concerned construction companies to the development.
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