CHENNAI: Has Bay of Bengal’s atmospheric capacity been reduced due to pollution? A National Institute of Oceanography scientist VVSS Sarma says the associated recent increase in sulphate and nitrogen aerosol loadings over North West Bay of Bengal from the Indo-Gangetic Plain and Southeast Asia during winter and spring may be mainly responsible for the increased acidity in recent years.
“Thus, this region, which was previously considered to be a significant sink for atmospheric CO2, (Carbon dioxide) now seems to have become a source of CO2 to the atmosphere,” he warns. He says these changes will have significant impact on ecosystem in this sensitive region, which requires more careful evaluation in future studies. Sarma made this observation during Chennai Regional Dialogue on ‘Clean Oceans’ which is a precursor to World Sustainable Development Summit from February 11-13 at India Habitat Centre, Delhi.
The regional dialogue, hosted by The Energy Research Institute (TERI) and National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR) on Friday also highlighted how 32 per cent of plastics which fail to get collected and dumped in landfills, is making its way to coastal waters and marine ecosystems.GVM Gupta, scientist, Centre for Marine Living Resources and Ecology, during the dialogue suggested a total ban on plastics, including biodegradable ones. He also highlighted how the ocean is being vulnerable to oil pollution. “We are undertaking the mapping and fingerprinting of tar balls which have been found in Mangalore coast due to pollution from Bombay High,” he said.
Annapurna Vancheswaran, senior director of TERI, rued lack of participation of the corporate sector in the dialogue. Yugraj Singh Yadav, director, Bay of Bengal Programme said a strategic action programme for the Bay of Bengal will be launched in mid 2019. The sessions highlighted that 80 per cent of marine litter originates from land-based sources.
One of the key contributors to oceanic pollution is the use and disposal of packaging material, such as plastics, cans, and other non-biodegradable material. There were discussions on the need to improve waste collection transportation and processing infrastructure, implementation, monitoring and enforcing litter ban and use of bio-based and bio-degradable plastics.
K Somasunder, Scientist –G, Ministry of Earth Sciences, said, “Coordination and cooperation is required amongst local and global organisations to combat oceanic pollution. There is a need to increase the participation of multiple stakeholders to address this issue.”
During the discussions, it was highlighted that EU countries were exporting majority of the waste into Asian countries with an attempt to recycle it. With China banning import of waste, the waste now lands in countries with weaker environmental controls leading to dumping of plastic into oceans. Thus, the speakers stressed that the European Union should treat waste by incineration rather than transporting it to Asia.
According to the concept note, plastic consumption per capita in India at 11 kg is much lower than global average consumption of 28kg. The cumulative consumption is higher than comparable economies.