15-member NatGeo team to travel up Ganga to study plastic pollution
An all-women team of 15 researchers and engineers will be part of a National Geographic expedition that will travel up the Ganga from the Bay of Bengal to its source in the Gangotri glacier to study the flow of plastics in the river system.
The expedition will be undertaken by boat, road and rail over four months, of which two months will be in summer beginning at the end of May and two months after the monsoon.
Every year, 9 million metric tonnes of plastic is dumped in the world’s water systems, which ends up in the oceans. In India, plastic contributes nearly 60% of the waste reaching the oceans, according to the National Centre for Coastal Research.
“Most of it comes from fishing nets and the polythene and plastics discarded on land near the mainland. Near Andaman and Nicobar islands, we found plastic transported by ocean currents even around uninhabited islands. The highest density of plastics is found along the coastlines, which increases during floods, suggesting an important role of the rivers,” said Dr S Srinivasalu, director, Institute of Ocean Management, Anna University, Chennai.
Last year, on World Environment Day on June 5, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that all single-use plastics will be banned in India by 2022. The India-backed resolution on addressing the problem of single-use plastics was adopted by the fourth UN Environment Assembly in March 2019. The Ganga was chosen for the expedition as it is one of the world’s iconic waterways and supports an estimated 600 million people.
“Additionally, India has positioned itself as a leader in tackling plastic pollution and National Geographic wants to provide them with the tools to help continue those efforts,” said Heather Koldewey, scientific co-lead of the expedition and senior technical advisor at Zoological Society of London. Alongwith her, Jenna Jambeck, National Geographic Fellow and professor at University of Georgia would be leading the expedition.
The Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India is the India partner for the expedition. “It will help better understand and document how plastic waste travels from source to sea and to fill critical knowledge gaps around plastic flow, load and composition,” said Koldewey.
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