Activities on Mercury

Mercury has been identified by the international community as a global chemical of concern. In 2002, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in cooperation with the Inter-Organization Programme for the Sound Management of Chemicals (IOMC) developed the Global Mercury Assessment (GMA), indicating that mercury is a persistent chemical which cycles globally with serious health effects to humans and the environment. The GMA also pointed out that mercury-related problems are most challenging to developing countries.

In this context UNITAR initiated activities related to mercury in 2007, to assist countries in developing national strategies to reduce emissions and manage risks caused by mercury. An important aspect is the systematic collection of information concerning emissions from point (e.g. power plants) and diffuse sources (e.g. landfills, mercury containing products). Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTR), are an important tool that can assist countries in identifying and reporting emissions and transfers of mercury on a sustained basis. Knowledge of mercury emission patterns and their magnitudes can afterwards serve as a sound basis for targeting national reductions in mercury emissions through a national risk reduction strategy.

UNITAR's activities are in general closely related to UNITAR's long standing PRTR and Risk Management Decision Making specialized training and capacity building programmes. Activities in this area take place through a country-driven and multi-stakeholder approach in collaboration with relevant international agencies, such as UNEP.

UNITAR's Assistance to Countries

UNITAR provides technical support for national project activities, including training activities and provision of guidance materials. UNITAR provides:

  • International expertise and training to strengthen skills to develop mercury inventories
  • Training to strengthen capacities on and risk management decision-making
  • Training to strengthen capacities on PRTR development and implementation
  • Provision of guidance and training materials in support of national mercury implementation activities, such as the following: “Integrating Mercury Pollution Information into a National PRTR System: Institutional and Other Strategic Considerations”; “Developing a Risk Management Plan for a Priority Chemical”; “Linkages between Mercury Product Information and Mercury Emissions Note”; and “Mercury National Situation Analysis and Capacity Assessment Document”
  • Other country-specific activities designed to address particular point sources (e.g. a planned project to address a mercury point source in Kyrgyzstan, with the support of the Government of Switzerland).

Development of an Action Plan to Address Primary Mercury Mining in Kyrgyzstan

More information on this project, which has the overall objective to reduce risks associated with primary mercury mining in the Khaidarkan area, Batken Oblast, Kyrgyz Republic, can be found here.

Mercury Pilot Projects (2007-2009): A Contribution to the Global Mercury Partnership

Starting in early 2007, three Latin American countries - Chile, Ecuador, and Panama - were selected to participate in a pilot project to provide information on the magnitude of mercury emissions at national level by developing National Mercury Emissions Inventories and linking them to national PRTR systems. In addition, project countries will develop National Risk Management Plans to reduce mercury emissions. Both project components would be discussed and endorsed at a multi-stakeholder "National Workshop on Institutionalizing a Mercury PRTR and Developing a Mercury Risk Management Strategy". Specific project objectives are:

  • Developing a mercury emissions inventory report
  • Developing a strategy to institutionalize a mercury emissions reporting system within the framework of a national PRTR system
  • Designing a plan for mercury risk management taking into account emission inventory data (and mercury containing products); and
  • Engaging stakeholders in partnerships for mercury emission reporting and risk reduction

The three pilot projects have a duration of 18 months and are implemented with the financial support of United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Mercury Pilot Projects: Expected Outcomes

By the end of the Project, the following outcomes are expected to be completed in each of the three project countries:

  • A National Mercury Releases Inventory including the main categories of country emission sources, emission pathways within each category and emission quantification.
  • A National Action Plan to address the integration of the National Mercury Inventory within a national PRTR system.
  • A National Mercury Risk Management Plan outlining options to reduce mercury releases and exposures, taking into account national conditions.

A Project on “Strengthening National and Regional Capacities for SAICM Implementation in Central America and the Dominican Republic” is being implemented with support of UNITAR and USEPA. As enabling activity for SAICM implementation, the project includes a component on mercury management. Two new pilot projects are being implemented in Dominican Republic and Nicaragua, based on previous experiences in Chile, Ecuador and Panama. For more information, please click here.

Implementation of the Mercury Pilot Projects

National Project implementation is led by the governments of Chile, Ecuador and Panama. In Chile, project management relies in the Comisión Nacional del Medio Ambiente (CONAMA), in Ecuador project management is conducted by the Ministerio del Ambiente, and in Panama the project is led by the Autoridad Nacional del Ambiente (ANAM). Additionally project countries coordinate project activities through a multi-stakeholder National Project Coordinating Group including relevant national ministries, private sector, civil society and academia.

Application Opportunities

UNITAR would be pleased to assist additional countries in implementing national projects to develop mercury emission inventories, integrate the inventories within national PRTR systems and develop and national risk management plans for mercury. Interested countries are requested to contact UNITAR (see contacts below).

More Information

Further country projects are planned, resources permitting.

For more information about UNITAR's activities on mercury, please contact UNITAR's Chemicals and Waste Management Programme at:

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