Plastic waste floods rivers despite campaigns

Plastic waste materials caught in the branches of a tree in Chethukadavu Puzha, a tributaryof the Chaliyar, at Chathamangalam in Kozhikode.

Plastic waste materials caught in the branches of a tree in Chethukadavu Puzha, a tributaryof the Chaliyar, at Chathamangalam in Kozhikode.  

Despite routine awareness programmes and plastic waste eradication drives, tones of plastic waste end up in the rivers every monsoon season. Besides polluting the fresh water bodies, these non-degradable waste, including polythene covers and plastic bottles, also raise serious environmental concerns as they ultimately end up in the ocean and enter the food chain eventually.

The appalling scale of plastic waste entering water bodies can be understood from the amount of plastic junk get caught up by the branches of the riverside plants and the bushy vegetation growing in the river. “When the water-level goes down after a seasonal spate, the river bares the awful amount of plastic waste it gathers in different parts,” says Salam Nadukkandy, an environmental activist, who had led several campaigns to make Iruvanjhi puzha, a tributary of Chaliyar, free from plastic waste, at Mukkam in the district.

Besides the problems it causes to traditional fishermen once the floating waste enters the sea, it also poses serious threat to the marine ecosystem. According to P. Kaladharan, principal scientist, Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Kochi, the huge amount of plastic waste entering the ocean has serious ecological implications.

After a period, the plasticizers evaporate, and the plastic objects disintegrate. “They easily enter the digestive system of the fishes, who take it for food,” says Dr. Kaladharan. Several instances of turtles confusing the floating plastic covers with jelly fish and ingesting them at their peril have been reported by different researchers.

Mixing of the toxic contents of plastic with water is another challenge, he says. “Effectively checking the land-born plastic waste in the land itself is the only way out,” says Dr. Kaladharan, who currently works on impacts of climate change, marine litter and their impacts.

Each panchayat, through which a river runs, should take the responsibility of protecting their portion of the river from plastic waste, says Babu Parambath, a plastic waste management expert from Kozhikode. A forum, which he is part of, has recently undertaken a campaign to free 12 select panchayats in the district from plastic waste by introducing a zero-budget waste management programme. The forum collected at least 20 truck loads of plastic waste from each panchayat during a waste collecting drive recently. “Imagine all of them ending up in our rivers this monsoon,” says, Mr. Babu, who plans to expand the scheme to other panchayats as well.

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2020 8:00:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kozhikode/plastic-waste-floods-rivers-despite-campaigns/article7390753.ece

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