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A Toxics-Free Future


Tanzania risks missing vital meeting on global pact


TANZANIA is likely to participate at the first Conference of the Parties (COP1) of the Minamata Convention as observers.

The conference is confirmed to take place from 24 to 29 September this year at the International Conference Centre in Geneva, Switzerland.

For Tanzania to participate, it has to ratify the Convention 90 days before the conference date. Latest information indicates that out of 128 countries that signed the Convention, only 55 have ratified it.

Minamata Convention is the global treaty that aims to protect human health and environment from adverse effects of mercury. Tanzania is a signatory to the Convention since October 2013. Speaking to the ‘Sunday News’ yesterday, Senior Environmental Officer in the Vice President’s Office, Mr Isaria Mangalili said Tanzania was committed to ratifying the Convention.

“It is true we haven’t ratified the Convention, but the process is at an advanced stage. Even if we don’t beat the deadline before the first conference (COP1) we may not miss much from the meeting,” he said.

Mr Mangalili admitted that use of mercury was indeed hazardous to human health and environment, which is why Tanzania showed its commitment since 2013 by signing the Convention. Efforts to reach the Minister in the Vice President’s Office (Environment) January Makamba proved futile as he was reported to be in Butiama, Mara region for the World Environment Day.

Silvan Mng’anya, Principal Programme Officer- AGENDA and Anglophone Africa IPEN Regional Coordinator, a Non- Governmental Organisation that also deals with environmental issues, told this paper that failure to ratify the Convention in time will deny Tanzania an opportunity to participate in decision making during the conference. In addition, he said in the longer run the nation will be left out if there were technical and financial assistance targeted for Parties (countries that have ratified).

Mercury has been finding its way into the soil through mining mainly by artisanal miners and uncontrolled disposal of some medical and electronic equipment. Later, the hazardous metal finds its way into water bodies, from which the public get fish for consumption.

In the health sector, a campaign is going on to phase out the use of dental filling materials that contain mercury (dental amalgam). The campaign, which is in line with the objectives of Minamata Convention, focuses on phasing out the use of dental amalgam that is used as a filling material on affected teeth. Scientists state that dental amalgam is a dangerous filling material because it is 50 per cent mercury.

In April this year, stakeholders in oral and dental health sector met in Dar es Salaam under the coordination of AGENDA, during which they unanimously called upon the government to prepare a curricular for dental schools to enhance training on the use of mercury –free dental filling materials.

However, during the meeting specialists revealed that the public had nothing to worry about because there were other methods of treating the affected teeth and that students in colleges were being trained on how to apply them. According to scientists, mercury has serious health hazards on nervous, cardiovascular, kidney, immunity and digestion systems.