Marine pollution: An Alarming Situation
14, Feb 2023
Prelims level : Environment Mains level : GS-III Environment & Biodiversity |Climatic Change Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Eia
Why in News?
- A significant portion of single-use plastic gets piled up on coastlines and contributes to the growing burden of marine litter, endangering aquatic biodiversity. In India, anthropogenic activities add approximately eight million tonnes of plastic waste to the marine environment.
Plastic pollution menace:
- The demand for plastic products has grown drastically in the last few decades: The possible reasons for this dramatic surge can be attributed to its durability, flexibility, lightness and affordability.
- Plastic production and generation: Globally, the annual production of plastic reached 460 million tonnes in 2019 and 353 million tonnes of plastic waste were also generated in the same year.
- Approximately 50% is dumped in landfills: Approximately 50 per cent of plastic waste generated in the same year was dumped in landfills, according to the Organization for Economic Corporation and Development.
- First use plastic: In 2021-22, India’s plastic demand was 20.89 million tonnes. About 40 per cent of this gets added to plastic waste after the first use, a Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment had found.
Key sources of Marine pollution
- Land based sources: Land-based sources such as dumpsites located near the coastlines or banks of a river, flood waters, industrial outfalls, discharge from storm water drains, untreated municipal sewerage, beach litter, tourism, fishing, ship breaking yards, defence-related facilities, automobiles, industrial wastes, natural events, etc are the main factors contributing to the menace of marine litter.
- Sea based sources: In addition to this, sea-based sources such as waste from ships, fishing vessels and other public transport and research facilities; offshore mining and extraction; legal and illegal waste dumping; ghost nets, natural events, etc add to it.
- There may be more plastic than fish in oceans by 2050: Tributaries of major Indian rivers also carry around 15-20 per cent of plastic waste into the marine environment. If this trend continues, there may be more plastic than fish in oceans by 2050, warned many recent researchers on this front.
- Microplastics in food chain: Marine debris can transcend international borders and disperse to faraway locations from its place of origin. Since marine species consume microplastics, they can eventually sweep into our food chain.
- Bioaccumulation of chemicals endangers Human health: Additionally, leached chemicals may also bioaccumulate in these species and endanger human health.
Government efforts so far:
- Banned single use plastic: From July 1, 2022, the Union government banned the manufacturing, selling, use and storage of 19 identified single-use plastic items. Still, the ban is not effective as prohibited items have been found in use in almost every Indian city.
- Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM): The central and state governments have already allocated a SBM and disbursed more than Rs 3,000 crore on public awareness campaigns and coastal area cleaning drives.
- Coastal cleaning programme: The National Centre for Coastal Research, a body under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, led a coastal cleaning programme covering 7,500 kilometres.
- Swachh Sagar, Surakshit Sagar, a 75-day citizen-led campaign for improving ocean health through collective action, was launched on July 5, 2022.
- It has three strategic underlying goals that target transformation and environmental protection through behaviour change.
- The three underlying goals of the campaign are, consume responsibly, segregate waste at home and dispose of it responsibly.
- Enlisting multi-layered plastic packaging in banned list: The government needs to enlist multi-layered plastic packaging items in the list of banned items; only 19 plastic items have been considered as of now.
- Effective enforcement: Effective enforcement and penalty against defaulters is required as the government has already spent a lot on public awareness campaigns in the last six year.
- Strict monitoring of CRZ: There should be strict implementation and monitoring of Coastal Regulation Zone and Special Area Planning guidelines in order to curb haphazard constructions along the coastlines. A National Marine Litter Policy needs to be formulated as early as possible.