Monday May 27, 2024

Plastic pollution wreaking havoc on marine life along Pakistan’s coast

By our correspondents
June 25, 2017

Beaches in Pakistan, especially Clifton, are littered with plastic pollution contributing to around 50 percent of the total garbage found on the beach. This non-degradable pollutant is seriously affecting marine life along coastal and offshore waters, maintained a World Wide Fund for Nature–Pakistan’s (WWF-P) study on marine pollution in the country.

The study released to the media on Friday, revealed that even remote beaches along Pakistan’s coast including Kund Malir and Gwadar are littered with plastic pollution.

It has been reported that globally one out of three marine mammals have been found entangled in plastic litter. Similarly, researches indicate that around 90 percent of sea birds digest plastic.

Fish and other animals are also not spared as they consume micro-plastic or become entangled in plastic debris, the study maintains.

In a rare incident, a flat needlefish (Ablennes hians) locally called ‘Alore’ was found entangled in the handle of a plastic cup by Momin Khan, a WWF-Pakistan trained fisherman, on Thursday around 270 km southwest of Karachi. The fish alive when found could not survive after fishermen tried to remove the cup, attached to its midsection, said Muhammad Moazzam Khan, WWF-P’s technical advisor (Marine Fisheries).

Uncontrolled dumping of plastic products in the terrestrial and marine environment has become a serious threat to animals and plants inhabiting coastal and offshore waters of Pakistan.

According to one estimate, around 6.4 million metric tons of trash, mostly plastic, is dumped in the world’s oceans every year. If plastic bags, bottles, toys and packaging material are not disposed of properly, they reach the sea and damage coastal ecosystems.

“Plastic waste, which decomposes very slowly, keeps floating in the open sea or piles up on beaches. Pakistan is no exception to this, as improper dumping of city garbage at unauthorised locations such as along the shores of Ibrahim Hyderi, Karachi, has resulted in an unprecedented increase in plastic pollution on the beaches and sub-tidal environment along the coastline,” the official maintained.

He added that, “Plastic pollution come from flotsam and jetsam generated from ships including fishing vessels operating in the sea. Floating plastic is mistaken for food items my marine animals who become engulfed in it, in most cases, with serious and deadly consequences.”

Khan added that high concentrations of plastic material, particularly plastic bags, have found to restrict the breathing and stomachs of many marine species, including whales, dolphins, seals, seabirds, and turtles.

According to him, flat needlefish is a fast moving fish which usually misidentifies floating plastic cup for food and became entangled in them. “No such case of entanglement was ever reported from any other parts of the world,” he added.

WWF-P Senior Director Programmes Rab Nawaz urged the local administration to properly remove garbage from the city and called for adequate disposal at dumpsites and controlling of unauthorised dumping of garbage at Ibrahim Hyderi and other coastal areas of the country.

He further stressed the need for creating awareness among the general public about rational use of plastic in their daily chores and also promoting use of recyclable material instead of plastic. “It is a persistent chemical and takes hundreds of years before degrading.”

According to Nawaz, accumulation of plastic in the ecosystem, especially along the coast and in offshore waters, poses serious threats to marine biodiversity; hence urgent steps are needed to address this growing issue all over the world.