The seas near Mumbai, Kerala and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are among the most polluted in the world, a global study that mapped marine pollution around the world has found.
Researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research in Germany have for the first time compiled 1,237 scientific studies on marine litter into a single, comprehensive database called Litterbase.
Litterbase establishes a global map identifying several such locations in the world with the maximum marine plastic pollution.
Garbage, mainly plastic, has for decades choked our rivers and streams that ultimately flow into the ocean.
And Mumbai’s coast, and therefore the sea next to it, is among the worst of the lot. The database did a quantitative analysis of plastic debris on beaches in Mumbai and found an average of 68.83 items a sqm at four beaches – Juhu, Versova, Dadar and Aksa — most of it (41.85%) were microplastics ranging in size from 1m to 5m.
Lead author of the paper, HB Jayashri, from the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency in Sri Lanka told HT the highest quantity of microplastics was seen in the Juhu beach (55.33%), followed by Versova (28.8%), Dadar (18.6%) and Aksa (7.9%).
“The ocean around Mumbai is one of the most polluted in the world,” said Jayashri. “The major contributing factors for the litter are from recreational and religious activities and fishing, which suggests that most of the plastic pollution in the sea has its source on land. We also found that poorly treated domestic waste ended up polluting the ocean even more.”
The pollution is not only increasingly posing a threat to the livelihood of people who live close to the sea, but is also severely affecting marine biodiversity.
“In the AWI Litterbase, we have for the first time analysed all groups of organisms affected by the litter, and have presented it in map form,” said AWI’s Dr Melanie Bergmann. “The number of affected marine species is currently at 1,220, and is rising steadily.”
The maps documented littered locations in India, China, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia, South Africa, the United States, a large portion of Europe, the western coast of South America and even at isolated areas across the world. “It is important to bear in mind that the blank areas on our map don’t necessarily represent clean regions; instead they are blind spots,” Bergmann said.
Plastic choking our oceans
8 million metric tonnes of plastic leaks into the ocean worldwide every year
322 million tonnes of plastic — about as much as 900 Empire State Buildings — was the amount of plastic the world prodcued in 2015
13 million tonnes of that found its way into our oceans – that’s as much as dumping two garbage trucks of plastic into the ocean every minute
$13 billion a year is the cost of the environmental damage, as the plastic wreaks havoc on our fisheries, marine ecosystems and economies
What is Marine Litter?
Waste created by humans, which is discharged in coastal or marine environments
Paper, textiles, glass, rubber, wood, metal, ceramics, plastics
60-90% of marine litter is made up of plastic polymers
Cigarette buds, plastic bags, fishing gear, food and beverage containers