Banning by the barrel

On November 26, 2003 Armenia ratified the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade. It was the 50th country to do so, thus enabling the treaty to come into force Februray 24, 2004 onwards. The convention seeks to provide countries with information on chemicals they import

 
Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

-- (Credit: Amit Shankar / CSE)November 2003 could go down in history as the beginning of a new era in the regulation of hazardous chemicals.

On November 26, 2003 Armenia ratified the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent (pic) Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade. It was the 50th country to do so, thus enabling the treaty to come into force Februray 24, 2004 onwards. The convention seeks to provide countries with information on chemicals they import. "It will contribute to the goal of ensuring that, by 2020, chemicals are used and produced in ways that minimise adverse effects on human health and the environment," said Klaus Tpfer, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, after Armenia's ratification. Developing countries, in particular, will be able to control the availability of some highly toxic stuff. Of course, this option is not open to India; it has not even signed the treaty, let alone ratify it.

Armenia's ratification came a fortnight after a similar global initiative, being planned since 1995, finally got under way. From November 9-13, 400 delegates met in Bangkok, Thailand at the first Preparatory Committee to develop a Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (saicm). Viewpoints differed. While some wanted saicm to provide new instruments of control, others felt it should only improve coordination and coherence between existing chemicals-related bodies and agreements. Countries also differed on whether saicm should cover chemicals through all stages of their life cycle, including waste. Most of these issues are to be fleshed out in the future.

Against the backdrop of these major developments, two other chemicals management bodies met to carry on business. The Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee of the Interim pic procedure held its tenth session (inc-10) and the Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety met in its fourth session (icfs-4). inc-10 added some chemicals to a list that would subject them to the pic procedure, but not chrysotile asbestos -- this was dropped from inclusion at the behest of Canada and Russia, major producers of the poisonous substance. icfs-4 addressed a range of issues, from chemical safety associated with children, occupational safety and health to the problem of acutely toxic pesticides.

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