Representatives at the Minamata Convention on Mercury took a break from the summit on Wednesday to pay tribute to the victims of mercury poisoning in the city of Minamata in southwestern Kumamoto Prefecture. Flowers have been laid at a monument dedicated to the victims as they remembered the tragedy that afflicted thousands of people.
More than 140 delegates attended the convention named after the city that suffered the worst industrial poisoning in Japan, where more than 2,000 people have died. The five-day convention is aimed to finalize a legally-binding agreement among the nations on how to regulate use and production of mercury. A treaty is also expected to be signed by the attending representatives on Thursday.
The treaty is also expected to layout grounds concerning mercury mines. However, environment groups pointed out that the convention has missed the small-scale gold mining activities. Just the same, labour workers in this business are also facing health threats. Mercury is known to impose health problems especially to the central nervous system, with pregnant and nursing women facing higher risks for their fetus and infants.
There may be people not working in mercury mines or factories, but there are also people at risk because of consumption of mercury-contaminated meat. According to the Environmental Investigation Agency, “For far too long, coastal communities around the world have been allowed to consume the mercury-contaminated meat of whales, dolphins and porpoises, many in ignorance of the risks involved.” Japan is known to have such community. “Now signatories to the new treaty must make communities in places as far afield as Japan and the Faroe Islands properly aware of the very serious risks to human health that come from eating the meat of toothed cetaceans,” the agency said.
It is given though that the Japanese Government, in order to avoid further criticism pioneered by the Academy-award winning documentary film The Cove, would acknowledge that eating dolphin meat imposes health risks. But there remain people, especially those from the fishing town of Taiji, where dolphin hunting is not unknown, who argued that eating dolphin meat has been a tradition for hundreds of years.
[via Channel News Asia]