Plastic pollution upsetting marine ecosystem, say experts

Plastic pollution in marine ecosystems is causing health hazards and economic loss, according to marine scientists.

The presence of plastic pollutants in seas and backwaters is upsetting the ecosystem and breeding grounds of a large number of economically important fish varieties, said V. Kripa, head of the Fishery Environment and Management Division of the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute.

In her presentation at a symposium organised by the Kochi Corporation in association with Global Ocean, an NGO, here on Wednesday, Dr. Kripa said that the breeding habitats of fish varieties such as pearl spot, mullets and shrimps were hit by pollution. Pollutants also upset primary food production in waterbodies by preventing the entry of sunlight into water, thus affecting the productivity of the region. Littering in beaches is also impacting tourism, she said.

Marine litter was clogging gill nets, affecting the livelihood of artisanal fishermen. Refuse from land reached waterbodies during high tide, she noted.

Bijoy Nandan, associate professor of the Department of Marine Biology of the School of Marine Sciences, Cochin University of Science and Technology, suggested more studies on the micro-level impacts of pollution.

Though data is available on the macro-level impact of marine pollution, the micro-level impact is not much documented. There is a dearth of reliable scientific data regarding micro-level impact including toxicity in marine organisms, Dr. Nandan said.

Kochi Corporation would evolve programmes for addressing the plastic menace including the use of plastic carry bags, said T.K. Ashraf, chairman of the Health Standing Committee. The corporation had earlier asked students to collect plastic refuse from their houses as part of the drive against plastic. The support of the city residents is required for taking forward the drive against plastic that has been causing waterlogging. A large number of city drains are clogged by plastic bags, he said.

The ban on plastic carry bags below 40 microns has not yielded the desired results in the city.

The corporation will seek the support of traders for replacing plastic carry bags with bags made of eco-friendly materials like jute and cloth bags, he said.

Earlier, Hibi Eden, MLA, inaugurated the programme.

B. Bhadra, deputy mayor, Kochi Corporation, presided over the meeting.

Melanie Salmon of Global Ocean, K.C. Mohana Chandran, deputy manager, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited, and Rajan Chedambath, secretary, Centre for Heritage Environment and Development of the Kochi Corporation, were among those who attended.

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