India’s marine litter problem

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    According to the Central Pollution Control Board, India generates 55 million tonnes of municipal waste annually, of which only 37 per cent is treated.

    Reasons 

    • Growing population, rapid urbanisation, shifting consumption patterns and changing lifestyles have resulted in the mismanagement of plastic waste, leading to the accumulation of municipal solid waste.
    • Most of these items, especially plastic items, contribute significantly to the growing burden of marine debris. 
    • Land-based sources account for most of the plastic in the water.
    • Unaccounted waste from urban agglomerations is carried by river systems to oceans for final dumping
    • Mismanagement of plastic waste generated in coastal cities and urban centres are leading to this reaching the water bodies

    Do you Know?

    • India has a coastline spanning 7,517 kilometres. It is spread across eight states and borders a 2.02 million square kilometre of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
    • India’s eight coastal states house a population of 420 million. Of this, about 330 million live on or within 150 km of a coast. 
    • Coastal districts are home to nearly 14.2 per cent of the country’s total population. 
      • Around 95 per cent of India’s trade by volume and 68 per cent by value is executed through waterways.
    • India’s coastline contributes to its ecological richness, biodiversity and economy.

    Concerns and Challenges 

    • Every year, thousands of tonnes of garbage, composed of plastics, glass, metals, sanitary products, clothes, etc., are dumped into the country’s coastline.
    •  However, plastics contribute a major portion of about 60 per cent of the total marine debris that reaches the oceans.
    • Marine litter is spread along the entire water column. High quantities of sediments are noticed during monsoon due to their spread into coastal water through creeks/rivers/estuaries, the research indicated.
    • Marine litter threatens ecosystems and adversely affects fishery and tourism industries around the globe. 
    • In addition to negative economic impact, it affects public health with increased concerns about micro-plastic and risk of particles entering the food chain
    • It tricks wildlife: Animals can easily get trapped in plastic bags or discarded fishing gear, or they mistake plastic for their food and it enters the food chain.

    Initiatives

    • The Ministry of Earth Sciences, through its attached office National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR), has undertaken beach clean-up initiatives, awareness programmes and beach litter quantification studies at regular intervals.
    • Attempts made by some organisations in rescuing marine species from the debris are worth mentioning. TREE Foundation, a Chennai-based non-profit, has been incessantly working on this.
    • India and Germany signed an agreement on ‘Cities combating plastic entering the marine environment’
    • The UK-India Intervention: The Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom and India agreed a ‘Roadmap 2030’, which sets out an ambitious framework for UK and India partnerships in a wide range of science disciplines, including marine science. 

    Suggestions for managing marine litter in a better way.

    • The National Marine litter Policy of India, announced in 2018, should be formulated.
    • Marine litter and microplastics distribution and characterisation study should be conducted across the Indian coast.
    • A forum of coastal cities should be created for ensuring a cross-learning ecosystem and to build a synergetic association of urban local bodies and local administration located on the coast.
    • A long-term vision plan should be developed for promoting partnerships among coastal towns, cities and urban administration for the reduction of marine litter and the creation of sustainable waste management ecosystems.
    • Regular beach clean-up and awareness programmes should be conducted instead of annual ones. 

    Mains Practise Question 

    [Q] Currently India is reeling under the marine debris crisis, which poses serious threats to its particularly rich marine biodiversity. Comment