The Chimbai beach at Bandra is the most polluted in the city, followed by the beaches in Versova, Prabhadevi and Marve. A three-month-long rapid assessment study of beach litter at 10 beaches in and around Mumbai has revealed that plastic is the most common and heaviest litter at the beaches at 126.38kg, which comprised 30% of all litter, followed by 69.85kg of cloth litter.
According to the study by NGO ReefWatch Marine Conservation, the average weight of the total litter at the 10 beaches — Chimbai, Versova, Juhu, Prabhadevi, Marve, Gorai, Erangal, Aksa, Girgaum and Uttan — is nearly close to half a ton each across a 200m stretch. It comprises plastic, clothing, fishing nets, toys, tyres, batteries, food wrappers, cigarettes and vehicular parts.
“What we are throwing into the ocean could potentially end up in our stomach. Larger studies have observed that planktons were eating the microplastics – small plastic particles between the sizes of 5-10 microns – from the litter, which is a cause of concern. According to our inference, the base of the food chain gets affected as the planktons are eaten by bigger fish, which can further be consumed by humans,” said Animish Limaye, mainland projects manager, ReefWatch Marine Conservation.
Analysis showed the rocky terrain at Chimbai beach made it the most polluted beach, with an average of 226.75kg of litter as the trash gets trapped between crevices and cracks instead of being pulled into the sea by the waves. While Versova and Prabhadevi were second and third, with an average litter of 54.15kg and 41.9kg respectively, secluded beaches — Aksa (7.65kg), Uttan (17.3kg) and Gorai (13kg) — were the least polluted.
Multiplying nearly 450kg of the total waste from 10 beaches by eight times to cover the entire beach, Limaye estimated that a total amount of 3600kg litter will be found strewn around across the beaches.
According to a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report, an estimated 20 million tonnes of plastic waste that finds its way into the world’s oceans is causing an annual environmental damage of US$13billion to marine ecosystems every year.
“Increasing pollution in the coastal areas, especially the beaches are a matter of grave concern. We also need to take urgent steps to protect the biodiversity of these areas,” said N Vasudevan, chief conservator of forest, state mangrove cell.
The NGO is now carrying out a comprehensive assessment study ‘Clean Urban Coasts’ at select city beaches to identify toxic waste entering oceans and devising solutions. The study that began in November is likely to be completed by this year-end.