Prelims Level
Mains Level
Prelims Syllabus : Pollution & Waste Management Mains Syllabus : GS-III Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment

Why in News?

  • European Commission has proposed to tighten limits for a range of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) to tackle contamination in recycled products, health and environment.

What are POPs?

  • In 1995, the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) called for global action to be taken on POPs, which it defined as “chemical substances that persist in the environment, bio-accumulate through the food web, and pose a risk of causing adverse effects to Human Health and the Environment”.

Uniqueness of POPs:

  • POPs are lipophilic, which means that they accumulate in the fatty tissue of living animals and human beings.
  • In fatty tissue, the concentrations can become magnified by up to 70 000 times higher than the background levels.
  • As you move up the food chain, concentrations of POPs tend to increase so that animals at the top of the food chain such as fish, predatory birds, mammals, and humans tend to have the greatest concentrations of these chemicals.

About Stockholm Convention on POPs:

  • Signed in 2001 and effective from May 2004 (Ninety days after the ratification by at least 50 signatory states).
  • Aims to eliminate or restrict the production and use of persistent organic pollutants (POPs).
  • Initially, twelve POPs have been recognized as causing adverse effects on humans and the ecosystem and these can be placed in 3 categories:
  • Pesticides: aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, mirex, toxaphene;
  • Industrial chemicals: hexachlorobenzene, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs); and By-products: hexachlorobenzene; polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDD/PCDF), and PCBs.
  • Since then, additional substances such as carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and certain brominated flame-retardents, as well as organometallic compounds such as tributyltin (TBT) have been added to the list of Persistent Organic Pollutants.

Sources of POPs:

  • Improper use and/or disposal of agrochemicals and industrial chemicals.
  • Elevated temperatures and combustion processes.
  • Unwanted by-products of industrial processes or combustion.

Is it Legally Binding?

  • Article 16 of the Convention requires that effectiveness of the measures adopted by the Convention is evaluated in Regular Intervals.

Other Conventions dealing with POPs:

  • Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollutants (LRTAP), Protocol on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).

Recent Developments:

  • The Union Cabinet, in 2021, approved the Ratification of seven chemicals listed under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).The Cabinet has also delegated its powers to ratify chemicals under the Stockholm Convention to the Union Ministers of External Affairs (MEA) and Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) in respect of POPs already regulated under the domestic regulations.
  • These are:
  • Chlordecone.
  • Hexabromobiphenyl.
  • Hexabromodiphenyl ether and Heptabromodiphenylether.
  • Tetrabromodiphenyl ether and Pentabromodiphenyl ether.
  • Pentachlorobenzene.
  • Hexabromocyclododecane.
  • Hexachlorobutadiene.

Benefits for India:

  • The ratification process would enable India to access Global Environment Facility (GEF) Financial Resources in updating the National Implementation Plan (NIP).
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