Updated: September 15, 2009 09:16 IST

Marine environment management

K. R. A. Narasiah
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Thousands of gallons of oil leaked from the ‘Torrey Canyon’, first of the super-tankers, carrying a cargo of 1,20,000 tons of oil on March 18, 1967 when it struck Pollard’s Rock between the Sicily Isles and Land’s End, England. The leak destroyed the marine life in that area, giving a wake up call to the world on marine pollution. International Maritime Organization adopted a treaty — known as MARPOL 73/78 — in two stages, in 1973 and 1 978. It covers not only accidental and operational oil pollution but also pollution by chemicals, goods in packaged form, sewage and garbage.

Similarly, UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission also came out with a Coastal and Ocean Governance Programme that included the need to define the coastal and ocean governance, with communities, the NGOs and other stakeholders taking active part in the initiative.

Marine issues

Against this background and the prevalent marine practices, this book assumes greater importance. In this commendable work, the author, with years of experience at sea and in the coast guard, has discussed all the issues related to marine environment, especially the fractal length of the coastline that is the interface between the sea and land, and the area of the coast that should be included while studying marine environment.

The book, which has seven chapters, clearly explains the ocean and marine environment. “The environment, as a definition for planet earth, should be seen,” says the author, “as the totality of the circumstances that surround the life in its wholesomeness.” He takes the position, and correctly so, that often human activities cannot be contained within limited factors and as such, response and conservation find a niche in the overall environmental management.

Explaining the P{+3}C Doctrine, (Protection and Preservation of the marine environment and Prevention and Control of marine pollution) the author puts forth, in the fifth chapter, a novel doctrine that forms the central theme of marine environmental management. He has adopted this from the charter of duties of the Indian Coast Guard. The concept of sustainable development is fully integrated with this. The passion with which Paleri has expatiated on the doctrine rivets one’s attention.

New era

The new concept of re-engineering the ocean and the Interfacial Marine Environment (IFME) will, as the author claims, open a new era in environmental management. For the re-engineering, he suggests, among others, sea walls and forests for storm deflection (already thought of after the Tsunami), artificial underwater reefs, and lower than sea-level inland water-fills to arrest waste input into the sea. Talking about the human touch to the problem, the author cites the Kerala experience. “Some 5,000 people mainly comprising the student population were mobilised by the locals, including government authorities, to protect the lake and its surrounding area from encroachment and pollution.” A unique environmental programme called Jalapaadam (lessons of water) was launched in Vembanad area, and it worked.

While discussing the vanishing coral reefs, one would have expected him to dwell on the subject of dredging for the Sethu Canal, since activists claim that dredging in the Gulf of Mannar — a biologically diverse coastal region that has been declared as a marine reserve — would irreversibly damage the fragile marine eco-balance and have a catastrophic effect on the eco-system.

MARINE ENVORONMENT — Management and People’s Participation: Prabhakaran Paleri; Pub. by KW Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 4676/21, I Floor, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110002 and National Maritime Foundation. Rs. 880.

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