It is evidently clear that the well-being and prosperity of citizens is directly linked to health of our planet and currently the planet appears to be under severe stress. Climate change, global warming, loss of biodiversity are clear indicators of this change. Our soil, fresh water sources, oceans and air are polluted and pose serious environmental and health challenges. Excessive use of pesticides and chemicals used for agricultural fields have polluted our soil and contaminated the produce that we grow and consume, rivers are being used as natural drains for city’s waste and ever worsening air that we breathe are major concerns for citizens across the world. The oceans perhaps are the biggest pollution sink as they receive these loads from all sources, pesticide run-off from land, pollution loads from air, plastics and chemicals and heavy metals released from industrial processes and waste streams. There are genuine concerns on depletion of fish population, its contamination, and finally finding its way on our plate.
Mercury is one such metal, known to contaminate fish and the concentration is more pronounced in the larger species, posing a threat to the fish eating population. Mercury contamination in fish has been studied in depth and the results suggest that most of the mercury released in oceans is from industrial processes and emissions. The world, today, recognises this threat and has initiated global effort to combat this menace by adopting the Minamata Convention, which comes into force in August this year. The treaty attempts to remove mercury from global circulation and place it in safe depositories for all times to come. The Indian government has signed the treaty and is expected to ratify this soon becoming a party to this global effort. Its ironic that health sector that takes care of our well-being and health is one primary user of mercury in form of various products like thermometers, sphygmomanometer (blood pressure monitor) and silver amalgams that contribute to mercury waste in our environment and oceans. There has been some effort in our country to shift from mercury-based measuring instruments, we are yet to make any significant shift in the dental sector.
It is important and critical for us to understand and become sensitive to environment and nature. This connect comes easier for farmers, fisher folk and tribal population, developing a fine sense among these communities to perceive environmental changes and make those finer adjustments in their lives. However, in our current urban lifestyle and the ever continuing mad rush we have become disconnected and are unable to perceive these changes. Ideal and appropriate for us to stop, pause and think of nature. Let us make a serious effort to connect with nature and be sensitive towards it.
The author, Satish Sinha, is Associate Director at Toxics Link.