International Treaties on Environment Protection

This article is written by Akhilandeswari Bonam, a student of Sri Padmavati Mahila Visvavidyalayam, Tirupati.

INTRODUCTION

A treaty or convention is conducted for the protection of the environment when the chemicals, hazardous substances, pollutants have taken place in the environment. The following are the conventions that cover the aspects of pollutants, hazardous wastes, and hazardous chemicals.


Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants

It is an international environmental treaty adopted in 2001 and came into force in May 2004. India approved to ratify the convention on 20th October 2005 and ratified in 2006. The convention aims to protect the environment and human health by eliminating the use of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).

This convention was finalized after the completion of four years of work. UNEP is the leading international environmental entity that supports the agenda and implementation of environmental sustainability for the United Nations.
POPs are kind of chemicals that cause problems to the environment and human health because they are stored in the fatty tissue or organs of animals, where they can have toxic effects. POPs are organic compounds that are resistant to environmental degradation through chemical, biological, and photolytic processes.

POPs can disrupt the endocrine system, cause cancer, cause genetic defects, and weaken the immune system. Human beings mainly consume pops from food, drinking water, air, and also skin through direct contact with the chemicals.

The Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee was established to consider additional compounds for regulates the use of these chemicals.  The convention categorizes the 12 toxics into three viz, Pesticides, Industrial chemicals, and By-products.

Conference of Parties (COP) to the Stockholm Convention in Geneva, recommended for the elimination of production and use of endosulfan and its isomers worldwide, subject to certain exemptions. The role of parties is to implement the obligations of the convention. The process of becoming a party begins with a state or regional economic integration organization submitting a means of ratification, acceptance, approval, or accession to the depositary.

Structure of the Stockholm Convention

  1. Reporting obligations
  2. National Implementation Plan
  3. Notification of information to the secretariat
  4. Financial Mechanism (GEF)
  5. Financial and technical assistance
  6. Regional centers
  7. Legal basis for compliance

GEF – Global Environment Facility is a financial mechanism established to address global environmental threats. The convention will enable India to avail of technical and financial assistance for implementing measures to meet the obligations of the convention.

Basel Convention

The Basel Convention on the Control of Trans-boundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal was adopted in 1989 by the conference of Plenipotentiaries at Basel, Switzerland. It entered into force on May 5th, 1992. Haiti and the United States have signed the convention but not ratified it. It does not, however, address the movement of radioactive wastes.

The Geneva meeting amended the 1989 Basel Convention on the control of hazardous wastes to include plastic wastes in a legally binding framework. The objective is to reduce the transboundary movement of hazardous wastes, minimize the generation of hazardous wastes, and help developing countries with the environmentally sound management of the hazardous and other wastes they generate.

Trans-boundary movement of hazardous wastes means several developed countries, dumped their hazardous wastes in some developing or less developed countries. To overcome this movement the Basel convention was designed. The transferring of wastes from developed countries to less developed countries has been termed as “toxic colonialism” by several authors. The reason for the rise of the movement of wastes from developed countries to developing countries is laxity in environmental laws, regulations, and their enforcement in the less developed countries. Clinical wastes from the hospitals, pharmaceutical products, mineral oils, etc are to be controlled under this convention.

Basel Ban Amendment

The original convention did not prohibit waste exports to any location except Antarctica but merely required a notification and consent system known as Prior Informed Consent.

Many wastes traders wanted to exploit in the name of recycling, so it was felt by many that there should be a full ban on the export of hazardous materials.

Requires certain controls over exports of hazardous and other wastes

  1. Notification and consent:-
  2. Sets the Prior Informed Consent
  3. Without this procedure, it considers as illegal traffic (criminal)
  4. Prohibitions or Bans:-
    1. Countries can ban imports on a national basis
    2. Ban on export to Antarctica
    3. Ban on trade between parties and non-parties

What does the Basel Ban Do and Not Do?

It creates a new Annex VII of developed countries – consisting of member states of the European Union, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and Liechtenstein. It prohibits exports of hazardous wastes from Annex VII countries to Non-Annex VII countries. It does not prohibit trade from Non-Annex VII countries to any other countries. It does not prohibit trade between Annexure-VII countries.

Environmental Impacts

Downstream: Protects the environment and people in developing countries from pollution and exposure.

Upstream: Provides strong new economic and legal incentive for implementing waste prevention or green design at source


Rotterdam Convention

It is an international legally binding instrument that covers certain hazardous chemicals and pesticides in international trade. It is important to understand that the convention itself does not ban chemicals and pesticides but it is only asking for structured information exchange on these substances to protect human health and the environment.

To contribute to the environmentally sound use of those hazardous chemicals. It facilitates information exchange about their characteristics on a very broad range of chemicals. It is formally, the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent procedure for certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade.
The convention promotes an open exchange of information and calls on exporters of hazardous chemicals to use proper labeling, include directions on safe handling, and inform purchases of any known restrictions or bans.

Rotterdam Convention contributes to achieving food security through sustainable agriculture.
Global impact: Growing coffee without Endosulfan
Sub-regional impact: Promoting Agroecology through the elimination of hazardous pesticides.
Regional impact: Awareness of pesticide exposure of particularly vulnerable groups, EU-funded partner project in former Soviet Union Countries together with AGPMC.

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