POP's puppetry

The Union ministry of environment and forests (moef) has decided to ratify the Stockholm convention on persistent organic pollutants (pops) and the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent. The Stockholm convention, which came into force on May 17, 2004, aims to reduce and eliminate 12 hazardous pops. India had signed the treaty in March 2002 but had been indecisive about ratification. The Rotterdam Convention requires exporters trading in a list of hazardous substances to get the prior informed consent of importers before proceeding with the trade. It was enforced on February 24, 2004.

moef sources told Down To Earth that the ministry last month agreed to sign the Rotterdam Convention and sent a note to this affect to the Union cabinet. Its decision is awaited. Regarding the Stockholm Convention, sources claim there is a "broad consensus' on ratification. The moef is preparing a note for the cabinet in this regard. India might announce its ratification decision around the time of the first Conference of Parties to the Stockholm Convention in May 2005 in Uruguay.

Though the decision to ratify both the conventions is welcome, the manner of ratification of Stockholm Convention leaves a lot to be desired. India, it seems, will opt for the ratification availing Article 25 (4) of the convention, which allows discretionary powers to Parties as regards future amendments to Annex A, B or C. In simple terms, this is "conditional ratification': parties to the convention can decide to "opt in' or "opt out' of any ban imposed on new chemicals brought under the convention. This is what the Rs 1,25,000 crore-Indian chemical industry has been demanding for a long time. Of the 94 countries that have ratified the treaty so far, only nine, including Argentina, Canada and China, have opted for "conditional ratification'. The Stockholm Convention currently covers nine pesticides, one industrial chemical and two unintended by-products. Most of these are no longer being produced anywhere in the world.