For the sake of sea turtles, don’t dump alcohol bottles on beachesUpdated: Jan 17, 2020 00:05 IST
Glass, primarily from bottles of alcohol and expired medicines, accounts for the bulk of the total waste littered across three major beaches in Maharashtra, found a waste-profiling study that examined government data collected between 2015 and 2017. The three beaches – Velas, Anjarle and Kelsi – are important nesting sites for Olive Ridley sea turtles.
Published in the International Journal of Sustainability Management and Information Technologies earlier this week, the study was conducted by Mumbai-based environment research agency TerraNero Environment Solutions with Vivekananda Education Society Institute of Management Studies under an Indo-German biodiversity programme. Local residents and other stakeholders – including Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra, an organisation working for turtle conservation – also helped with the study, which profiled waste across three beaches in Ratnagiri district. Velas beach in Mandangad taluka is famous for its annual turtle festival while Anjarle and Kelshi beaches in Dapoli taluka are also turtle nesting sites.
According to the Maharashtra forest department, an average of 20-25 kg waste is littered daily across these three beaches. Of this, the study found 80% of the waste on Velas was glass comprising alcohol bottles, plastic (14%) rubber (3%), medical waste (2%), and flowers or religious waste (1%). Plastic was banned by Velas’s panchayat in 2017. Similarly, waste on Kelshi and Anjarle was made up of 60% and 67% glass respectively, while plastic accounted for 10% and 17% respectively.
“Glass being highest by weight and single-use plastic highest by volume are major threats to the three beaches as turtles may get injured by glass or trapped in plastic,” said Dr Deepti Sharma, lead author, founder and director, TerraNero.
The forest department said the amount of waste at these beaches has increased because of tourism. “Tourism has steadily risen at these beaches with a few resorts coming in and the popularity of the turtle festival. We don’t have the manpower to tackle these issues but regular awareness activities for local residents are underway to protect turtles,” said Vaibhav Borate, range forest officer, Dapoli.
However, Sharma pointed to the lack of proper waste dumping sites in the area. With a little more than 5,000 locals living near the three beaches, an average of 0.7 kg waste is generated daily per household, which is almost twice the national average (0.48 kg/day) for rural households, the study found. “Owing to lack of proper waste dumping sites, household waste ends up in creeks and ultimately at sea, which is brought back during high tidal action to these beaches,” said Sharma.
The nesting months for Olive Ridley sea turtles are usually between November to March. The turtles lay eggs on these beaches and only females return to the original breeding sites within approximately two years. In 2018-19, 144 nests with 12,900 eggs were recorded in Ratnagiri district. Of these, 7,230 survived and the highest numbers were from Guhaghar, Kolthare and Velas.
Owing to extreme weather events in 2019, nesting has been delayed, said Mohan Upadhyay, livelihood assistant, Mangrove Foundation under the state mangrove cell. “Beach clean-up activities are carried out once every eight days at Velas, but waste management continues to be an issue for these beaches,” he said.
Between December 2019 and January 2020, Velas recorded three nests with 350 eggs. On Thursday, Anjarle recorded its first nest with 137 eggs. Kelshi also recorded a nest in end-November with 250 eggs.