Why the oceans need to be protected

Sunil Seth
It is a time to remember that we all are connected to the oceans no matter where we live, no matter how far we are away from the coast. The oceans are subjected to various kinds of pollution. One kind is plastic pollution. In fact the human activities are taking a terrible toll of the world’s oceans and seas resulting in marine pollution especially from land based sources; increased sea temperature; sea level rise resulting in submergence of coastal area and ocean acidification caused by climate change posing a further threat to the marine life, coastal island communities and economies too. The oceans being an integral part of the ecosystem, regulating the ecosystem not only supplying food but also medicines and oxygen, hence forth balancing the biosphere.
It is not only important for marine life which may live in it but also the animals nowhere near to it-especially the human beings. Oceans cover 75 percent of the world and 97 percent of world’s water; 2,10,000 different species have been confirmed by science-million more may lay undiscovered. Oceans absorb about a third of carbon dioxide produced by humans and their activities. According to the UN they are lungs of our planet. Almost three billion people depend on the source of protein produced by oceans. Over 205 million people are employed-either indirectly or directly by marine fisheries. But the rapid urbanization and industrialization all over the world has resulted into polluting oceans, damaging marine life and human life too. The need of the hour is to inform the public of the impact of human action on the oceans; develop a worldwide movement of citizens for the oceans; mobilize and unite the world’s population on a project for the sustainable management of the world’s oceans. Every year, at least 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in oceans, the equivalent of a full garbage truck every minute. It is responsible for killing one million seabirds and one lac marine mammals every year there by incurring loss of $8 billion to the marine ecosystem every year. In fact, we have produced more plastic in the last decade than in the whole of the last century. With this increase, it is estimated that if it goes unchecked, then by the end of 2050, oceans will be more  filled with plastic than fishes. It is contributing to such a drastic level that a swirling vortex of garbage of the size of a continent named as “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” is outnumbering planktons. The plastic being non-biodegradable but photodegradable keeps degrading into smaller pieces escaping even the treatment plants which then dissolves into  oceans; being eaten up by fishes and then consumed by we human beings. It’s in the water we drink and food we eat. The fact that plastic being insoluble in water for 300 years; takes 500 years to decompose and 1000 years for decomposing of PET bottles which are being bought at an enormous no. of one million bottles every minute.
It has now become an epidemic; rather we see rivers of plastics flowing into the ocean. Recently, headlines of the news from Thailand was making waves that 80 kg of plastic bags were found in the body of a whale who died because of plastics in the ocean. Main focus to check the plastic menace ending in the oceans is to create awareness among the people to keep the oceans clean and preventing the pollution in the first place. Lot is being done to clean the oceans but these will do nothing if we do not first stop the ongoing pollution at its first place for our effort to lead us to a sustainable ending. Preventing it in the first place simply by it’s total dismissal with a strict ban on the production itself looking for some biodegradable alternatives. For that, our efforts towards GSR (Green Social Responsibility) should say that if each and every   one of us does at least one green deed every day; there will be billions of good deeds daily which in turn can lead invention of new green alternatives to replace plastic menace being created by big Consumer companies by selling their products indiscriminatingly wrapped in plastics without a second thought as to what will happen to the packages when these new customers are finished with the product, followed by the need to levying taxes under EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) on the companies  responsible for creation of the plastic waste which then can be utilized for development of recycling infrastructure, another need of the hour by the developed as well as the developing nations.
India too, having a coastline of 7517 km and its contribution to national income, foreign exchange and employment with the declaration of 200 miles of Exclusive Economic Zone spreading over an area  of 2.3 million sq. miles which is almost equal to the agricultural land in the country, needs a due deliberation  on this aspect of sustainable development of oceans  taking in consideration the burgeoning   population where creating awareness is a herculean task.