The Union Cabinet has approved the ratification of seven chemicals listed under Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). The Cabinet further delegated its powers to ratify chemicals under the Stockholm Convention to Union Ministers of External Affairs (MEA) and Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MEFCC) in respect of POPs already regulated under the domestic regulations thereby streamlining the procedure.
What are POPs?
- Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are organic chemical substances (mostly pesticides and industrial chemicals), that is, they are carbon-based. They possess a particular combination of physical and chemical properties such that, once released into the environment, they –
- Remain intact for exceptionally long periods of time (many years);
- Become widely distributed throughout the environment as a result of natural processes involving soil, water and, most notably, air;
- Accumulate in the fatty tissue of living organisms including humans, and are found at higher concentrations at higher levels in the food chain; and
- Are toxic to both humans and wildlife.
- In addition, POPs concentrate in living organisms through another process called bioaccumulation. Though not soluble in water, POPs are readily absorbed in fatty tissue, where concentrations can become magnified by up to 70,000 times the background levels.
What is the ‘Stockholm Convention’?
- Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is an international environmental treaty, signed in 2001 and effective from May 2004, that aims to eliminate or restrict the production and use of persistent organic pollutants.
- It is a global treaty to protect human health and environment from POPs, which are identified chemical substances that persist in the environment, bio-accumulate in living organisms, adversely affect human health/ environment and have the property of long-range environmental transport (LRET).
- Exposure to POPs can lead to cancer, damage to central & peripheral nervous systems, diseases of immune system, reproductive disorders and interference with normal infant and child development.
- POPs are listed in various Annexes to the Stockholm Convention after thorough scientific research, deliberations and negotiations among member countries.
- The Global Environmental Facility (GEF) is the designated interim financial mechanism for the Stockholm Convention.
India and the Stockholm Convention
- India had ratified the Stockholm Convention on January 13, 2006 as per Article 25(4), which enabled it to keep itself in a default “opt-out” position such that amendments in various Annexes of the convention cannot be enforced on it unless an instrument of ratification/ acceptance/ approval or accession is explicitly deposited with UN depositary.
- The regulation inter alia prohibited the manufacture, trade, use, import and export seven chemicals namely (i) Chlordecone, (ii) Hexabromobiphenyl, (iii) Hexabromodiphenyl ether and Heptabromodiphenylether (Commercial octa-BDE), (iv) Tetrabromodiphenyl ether and Pentabromodiphenyl ether (Commercial penta-BDE), (v) Pentachlorobenzene, (vi) Hexabromocyclododecane, and (vii) Hexachlorobutadiene, which were already listed as POPs under Stockholm Convention.