Even as another World Oceans Day comes around on June 8, it is sobering to know that India has lost almost half its beaches. Some things we can do to reclaim our once-beautiful coastline...

What began at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 added another feature to itself in 2008 when delegates decided to mark June 8 every year as World Oceans Day (WOD).The Ocean Project , working with the World Ocean Network, is trying to create greater awareness of the significance of the ocean in our lives and the varied ways in which people can effectively engage themselves in the preservation of Neptune's riches. The survival of our species depends on our living in peace and harmony, especially in the biosystem that sustains us.

One way of participating is to wear blue and tell people two things they probably don't know about the ocean or ways in which they can help clean up 70 per cent of the earth's surface that is sea water. All over the world, on World Oceans Day, people dressed in blue to honour the ocean, will take a pledge:

Never to distress the sea by taking away its beaches and in turn making ourselves vulnerable to the effects of beach erosion;

That any development on the coast is done only after scientific studies determine that the step is not destructive;

That we cannot poison our own food by indiscriminately putting untreated sewage and harmful effluents into the sea;

That we understand that anything we do to harm the sea harms us in turn and

Anything we do to protect oceans helps us stay healthy and safe.

PondyCAN! (Pondy Citizens' Action Network) is a broad-based, non-profit organisation in Pondicherry, committed to preserving and enhancing the natural, social, cultural and spiritual environment and to promoting a holistic approach to development of this region. Their fight against mindless port expansion that is a significant contributor to coastline deterioration has been taken up by NDTV over the last two years and is now a state-by-state report of the national coastline in the news channel's campaign, Save Our Beaches.

Human impact

Over the span of a few decades, India has lost almost half its beaches along its once beautiful coastline, said Prannoy Roy introducing the subject.  It's known around the world as the murder of India's beaches, he continued. Even though it's not clear to the naked eye, beaches are constantly moving, the sand moves up the coast line pushed by the winds and the waves especially during the monsoon.

When a port is built, it breaks this natural movement of sand, which piles up south of the port.  But north of the beach the sand gets eroded (an action which you actually sense under your feet when you immerse them in seawater on the beach).  If it goes on there will only be rocks, not beaches left. That is why the Marina in Chennai has so much sand; but if one goes north of the port, the beaches are gone. 

In other parts of the world, it is mandatory for all ports to dredge sand from one side and place it on the other side but not in India, stressed this curtain raiser to the campaign, which it is hoped, will continue nationwide and gather momentum with individuals and groups interested in ecology and coastline conservation joining in. And then such a vast civil society network, with a pool of skills and knowledge, can effectively catalyse change in other areas too.

WOD is being celebrated with film festivals, beach cleanups, education programmes, sustainable seafood buffets and other carefully planned activities to make communities aware of how our lives depend on the ocean — the rich web of life the seas support is the result of millennia of evolution. Fittingly, “Helping our climate, helping our ocean”, with a special focus on coral reefs, is one of the themes of the Ocean Project.

Shared experience

Singapore, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, the US, Canada, Ireland, Italy, France, the Netherlands and the rest of Europe will all learn, engage, create, give and get through shared experience. “Come along, decorate a fish card, have a cup of tea and a chat,” the Scarborough Climate Action Network invited people on WOD last year, and all of these include an interesting element : they all focus on getting children and families to involve themselves, learning lessons and cultivating positive habits in an environment of festive merry-making.

Stark evidence

On July 17 and 18 last year, amid the icecaps 40 km from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, the world witnessed an epoch-making event. No place better to make a green statement than here, they say, because evidence of climate change is starkly visible at this site where water gushing through the icecaps, forming lakes on top, draws dramatic attention to global warming. An event called Aasvik Fire and Ice 2009 was the forum for the fulfilment of a prophecy that when the world needs it most the sacred fire will return to Greenland. It also provided an occasion for dialogue between tribal elders, scientists, world leaders and green activists, adding another dimension altogether to the solely political and technical avenues explored so far by world bodies in dealing with climate change. Fire and Ice combined to mark World Ocean Day. Ancient Wisdom for Earth (AWE), which facilitated this show, describes itself as a permanent place for study and ceremony. A globalised world with urgent and serious problems involving massive swathes of humankind needs to explore all avenues to stem the rot it has created.