Seawater norm change sought to conserve marine life
The Union ministry of earth sciences (MoES) has recommended amending a 1998 notification of the Union environment ministry that stipulated the criteria for seawater quality to include presence of seven heavy metals and certain pesticides.
If implemented, the proposed amendment will help conserve important marine species along the coast from severe marine pollution, the criteria guidelines will also have an impact on the health of coastal population who depend on seafood. The criteria will be applicable for beaches, coastal tourism areas and even ports and harbours. The proposal was made by MoES based on toxicological research by the Chennai based National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR). But, the ministry of environment has asked for a revised draft of the amendment as it may be too difficult to implement.
“MoES has made a proposal for amendment to the 1998 notification under the Environment Protection Act, which has criteria for seawater... Environment ministry has stated that the issue needs to be discussed with stakeholders and public in coastal areas. Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has been asked to revise the proposal and present it again,” said a joint director, environment ministry who declined to be named.
These guidelines were prepared after extensive bio-assay studies to determine chronic toxicity limits. “The toxic heavy metals are usually present in the marine environment and gets ingested by the marine life, these over time bio-accumulate and come to the food chain too,” said K Venkatarama Sharma, senior scientist at the National Centre for Coastal Research. The main sources of pesticides in seawater are pesticide run-off from agricultural fields and those of heavy metals are mainly industrial sewage. The heavy metals proposed to be included in the guidelines include cadmium, mercury, zinc and lead.
“We have found that heavy metals and pesticides affect all aspects of sea life, not some species in particular...A lot of people in India depend on seafood and this will be an important intervention for them,” added Sharma. “It’s good that government is coming up with a standard. The industrial sewage treatment plants will now have to put systems in place to meet with heavy metal criteria also,” said Deepak Apte, marine scientist and director of Bombay Natural History Society.