Financial costs of mercury contamination a heavy burden

Kathmandu, June 5

Organising a press meet today, researchers of the Centre for Public Health and Environmental Development presented the estimated economic losses associated with mercury pollution.

The research determined that the annual financial costs related to mercury pollution for a small community near Phewa Lake, Pokhara ranges from Rs. 3.83 million to Rs 58.34 million.

Mercury pollution originating from a variety of sources reaches the lake water, builds up into the food chain and ultimately affects dependent fisher folks and the nearby community around Phewa Lake.  “Mercury exposure damages the nervous system, kidneys, and cardiovascular system, and renders the most profound effects during foetal and early childhood development,” said Ram Charitra Sah, environmental scientists and executive director at the Centre for Public Health Environmental Development.

According to the World Health Organisation, mercury causes neurological damage and impacts cognitive thinking, memory, attention, language, and fine motor and visual spatial skills, among others.

In the study, 15 participants (fisher folks — both male and female) from the age of 34 to 62 were taken as a sample category, in which mercury contamination was found from 0.36 parts per million (PPM) to 1.72 PPM. Among them, 53 per cent of fisher folks contained more than 1PPM while 87 percent contain 0.58 PPM.

“We demanded that related government agencies and industries ensure safe and healthy handicraft, fisheries and proper waste management systems along with banning of imported sale, distribution and use of all mercury-based equipment through gazette notification,” said Sah.

He informed that country must abide by the early ratification of ‘Minamata Convention’ (the international treaty that obligates parties to take action to minimize and eliminate mercury pollution to protect human health and the environment).