Stockholm convention basics for prelims
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The Stockholm Convention

The Stockholm Convention is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from persistent organic pollutants (POPs). POPs are chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of living organisms and are toxic to humans and wildlife.  POPs circulate globally and can cause damage wherever they travel.  In implementing the Convention, Governments will take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment.

Over 150 countries signed the Convention and it entered into force, on 17 May 2004, 90 days after the ratification by the fiftieth country.

The Stockholm Convention focuses on eliminating or reducing releases of 12 POPs, the so-called “Dirty Dozen”. It sets up a system for tackling additional chemicals identified as unacceptably hazardous. It recognizes that a special effort may sometimes be needed to phase out certain chemicals for certain uses and seeks to ensure that this effort is made. It also channels resources into cleaning up the existing stockpiles and dumps of POPs that litter the world’s landscape. Ultimately, the Convention points the way to a future free of dangerous POPs and promises to reshape our economy’s reliance on toxic chemicals.

The Stockholm Convention is perhaps best understood as having five essential aims:

  • Eliminate dangerous POPs, starting with the 12 worst
  • Support the transition to safer alternatives
  • Target additional POPs for action
  • Cleanup old stockpiles and equipment containing POPs
  • Work together for a POPs-free future

The Global Environmental Facility (GEF) is the designated interim financial mechanism for the Stockholm Convention.

The Stockholm Convention is the most significant global legally binding instrument for targeting POPs. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) coordinated the organisation of the Stockholm Convention, which was originally signed by 92 nations and the European Community on the 23 May 2001 in Stockholm, Sweden.  The Stockholm Convention established an initial list of 12 key POPs chemicals (the socalled dirty dozen) for which signatories are required to reduce the risks to human health and the environment arising from their release. Enlisted parties are required to take measures (legal and/or administrative) to eliminate or heavily restrict the production and use of POP pesticides and PCBs, and to minimise the unintentional production and release of POPs. The 12 key POPs that are targeted by the Convention include Aldrin, Chlordane, DDT, Dieldrin, Dioxins, Endrin, Furans, Hexachlorobenzene, Heptachlor, Mirex, PCBs and Toxaphene.

Both the Stockholm Convention and the CLRTAP (The Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution) Protocol on POPs make allowances for further chemicals to be qualified as POPs. This allowance is described in Article 8 and Annex D of the Stockholm Convention, and requires parties to submit proposals of new POPs according to a set of strict screening criteria.

In order to integrate some of the aspects of the Basel Convention, Article 6(2) of the Stockholm Convention outlines the requirements for cooperation between the two ruling bodies. By integrating and ratifying the various global instruments for dealing with hazardous wastes and POPs, regional and national leaders can establish effective legal and institutional controls on such chemicals.

2011: Endosulfan was added to the POPs list of Stockholm Convention.

India and Stockholm Convention:

India’s Union Cabinet gave its approval to ratify and accede to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants on 20 October 2005. The Convention will enable India to avail technical and financial assistance for implementing measures to meet the obligations of the Convention.

Stockholm Convention and Endusulphan:

Endosulphan is used as an organochlorine insecticide and acaricide (killing tickes and mites). Endosulphan belongs to organochlorine group of pesticides such as DDT. It causes endocrine disruption and neurotoxic impacts. It is also supposed to be a genotoxic and may lead to genetic mutation. Because of its threats to environment as a POP, it is banned in more than 63 countries but still is widely used. In India it is produced by Hindustan Insecticides Limited. Currently, a global ban on the use and manufacture of endosulfan is being considered under the Stockholm Convention.

India is the largest user of Endosulphan. In India, Endosulphan was put on hold in Kerala due to some peculiar health impacts seen after aerial spray of in Cashew Plantations in Kerala. In other states there are approved manners of usage. There have been conflicting views on the usage and impacts of Endosulphan. The officials say that there is lack of full scientific certainty about its health and environment impacts. However, the environment activists say that the nexus of the government with the insecticide lobby leads to the stern stand of the Government. India’s stand was not clear in the Persistent Organic Pollutants’ Review Committee (POPRC) of the Stockholm Convention that began in Geneva, Switzerland that held in October 2010. In India, the Kerala Government demanded the ban on the pesticide as at least a few hundred people have died of poisoning caused by the chemical. Many face a wide range of genetic abnormalities and other health problems.

Mayee committee

Mayee committee was established by the United Democratic Front government in the state and it established that no link had been established between the use of Endosulfan in the cashew plantations of the State-owned Plantation Corporation of Kerala and the health problems. So it was the state Government that sent this report to center. But after that things have changed a lot. The Mayee committee had recommended the conduct of a comprehensive, well-designed and detailed health and epidemiological study in the entire plantation area. However, nothing was done in that direction for the past five years. However, the Non Governmental agencies have found that in Kasaragod district in Kerala, sustained exposure to Endosulfan resulted in congenital, reproductive, long-term neurological damage and other symptoms. There were observations of similar effects in animals: cows giving birth to deformed calves, cows and chickens dying inexplicably, domestic animals with miscarriages, bleeding, infertility, stunting of growth and deformities, as well as fish kills and dwindling populations of honeybees frogs and birds.

18/01/2017 :  Judgment of the three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court, presided over by Chief Justice of India J S Khehar, directing the Kerala government to release the entire compensation to more than 5,000 victims of the banned pesticide endosulfan, mostly newborn children and their families, in three months.