In addition to air and water pollution, India can now add one more category to its pollution worries: beach pollution. And here, tourism and fishing are the biggest culprits, contributing most of the plastic litter on beaches, according to a study by the National Centre of Coastal Research (NCCR).
The NCCR conducted a qualitative analysis of the litter on six different beaches on the eastern and western coasts. It found that plastic litter from tourism alone accounted for 40%-96% of all beach litter.
At Chennai’s Elliot’s Beach, for instance, plastics left by tourists accounted for 40% of all the litter, while at Gopalpur in Odisha, it was as high as 96%. As for the other four beaches, plastics formed 66% of the overall litter on Fort Kochi Beach, 60% at Karnataka’s Karwar beach, 87% at Visakhapatnam’s R.K. Beach, and 81% at Andaman Island’s Rangachang beach.
After tourism, fishing was the next biggest source of litter. While fishing nets were a major contributor, the processing of fish on the beach also produced a lot of litter.
At Fort Kochi, fishing litter accounted for 22% of the total, followed by Elliot’s Beach at 15%, and Karwar beach at 10%.
Also, the proportion of biomedical litter was high in urban areas, such as Elliot’s Beach and Fort Kochi Beach.
The study looked at tonnes of litter across these six beaches on September 15, 2018, the International Coastal Cleanup Day.
Speaking to The Hindu , M.V. Ramana Murthy, Director, NCCR, said India needed a national marine litter policy to control and manage waste on land and prevent its entry into the marine environment.
Other than the plastic litter dropped by tourists, similar waste from creeks and inlets made its way into the sea in the monsoon, he said.
Pravakar Mishra, an NCCR scientist who worked on the study, said that most of the litter consisted of plastic bottles, cutlery, and thermocol. Experts suggest installation of debris booms and fin deflectors upstream as measures to reduce the quantity of floating solid waste entering coastal waters.
Mr. Murthy and Mr. Mishra said that India needed to start blue-flagging its beaches. The ‘blue flag’ is a globally recognised eco-label awarded to beaches and marinas that adhere to strict environmental and safety norms.