Strengthen legal framework on chemical, waste control —UN Special Rapporteur

The United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Toxics and Human Rights, Mr Marcos Orellana, has called on the government to take further steps in strengthening its legal framework and improve implementation and enforcement, to guarantee the right to live in a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

Mr Orellana noted that there was weak implementation of laws concerning chemicals and wastes at the national level thereby putting individuals at risk of serious human rights violations.

He therefore, advised that in the face of threats posed by toxic substances, there was an urgent need for Ghana to respect and guarantee the free and full exercise of human rights.

The UN Special Rapporteur was speaking at a media briefing in Accra on Tuesday, at the conclusion of a 14-day visit to the country.

The aim of the visit was to collect and assess first-hand information related to issues concerning his mandate and to offer recommendations to the government and other stakeholders.

In his preliminary findings, the expert found out that, the toxic impact of mercury uses in small-scale gold mining, hazardous pesticides, plastics and e-waste exposures were particularly of much concern.

On the use of mercury in small-scale mining, Mr Orellana further observed that, their use contaminated soils and water sources at a national scale, thus compromising the rights of present and future generations.

He therefore, entreated the government to ban the trade and use of mercury, and address its use as a form of environmental crime. This could be done by championing amendments to strengthen the Minamata Convention on mercury.

Talking about the exposure of electronic waste (E-Waste), the Special Rapporteur cited that a variety of second-hand electronic materials, were imported into the country through the port of Tema, including hundreds of thousands of tons of discarded electronics mostly from Western Europe and the US.

“While imported electronic materials is officially labeled as used or second hand, many of the discarded goods are in the state beyond repair constituting electronic and electrical waste (E-Waste),” he noted.

Mr Orellana on his visit to Agbogbloshie, one of the world’s largest e-waste dumpsites, witnessed thousands of people living and working without protective equipment which exposed them to high levels of hazardous substances released in the dismantling and recycling of e-wastes.

“As I walked around the sites, I have seen a range of highly hazardous activities taking place a few metres away from families’ homes including re-purposing refrigerators and the burning of electronic cables for the extraction of copper,” he mentioned.

He also added that for a meagre income, children left their schools to burn electronic cables for the extraction of copper due to the lack of sound management.

BY YUNUSAH ESSANDOH AND ELIZABETH OFFEI

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