• Tuesday, Dec 07, 2021
  • Last Update : 11:00 am

OP-ED: Cleaning up the coast

  • Published at 12:23 am September 18th, 2021

Protecting our oceans from all the trash we generate

Today is International Coastal Clean-up Day: A day for acting together in collecting marine debris from the world’s waterways. Social workers and volunteers all over the world take part in the world’s largest coastal clean-up. It’s a great occasion to raise awareness and understanding about the conservation of the ocean.

The objective of the International Coastal Clean-up Day is to interact with people around the world to get rid of trash and debris from beaches, waterways, and other water bodies. 70% of our oxygen is produced in oceans, but a staggering amount of plastic pollutes our waters every year. 

Litter from any source flows downstream to the coast, and becomes ocean pollution. The bulk of the plastic in our ocean and on our beaches is from terrestrial-based sources that come from our daily lives.

In this backdrop, we seek to highlight the contribution, appeal, necessity, and usefulness of clean coastal areas. If everyone cleaned up a little area near where they live, it might make a huge difference. When you protect the ocean, you get a prettier place and contribute to safeguarding ocean wildlife too.

Beach cleanups

The ocean covers 71% of the Earth. The ocean helps produce the water we drink and the air we breathe. It absorbs carbon dioxide, and reduces the effect of global warming. It also creates food and recreation opportunities for many people.

The trash in the ocean is prevalent and can harm the health of the ocean and its marine life. One major source of trash within the ocean is garbage that washes off the beach and into the ocean, where it can choke or entangle marine life.

Conserving the environment is significant to every person’s existence, irrespective of views about climate change. You, as an individual, may have numerous ways you go about saving energy, reducing waste, and lowering your overall ecological footprint. But keeping the ocean clean and free from waste may or might not be a part of your routine environmental activities.

The problem with plastic 

Over 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been made since its production began in the 1950s. Only 9% of this plastic has been reused, the other 91% sits in landfills, floats in our oceans, or has been seared.

An estimated 8 million tons of plastic arrives in the sea every year. Numerous animals consume plastic, mistakenly considering it to be food. Plastic contaminates our air, land, sea, and may enter the physical body through the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe.

Demand for plastic grew from its low cost and durability -- plastic is nearly indestructible, and a significant threat to the natural environment. The overwhelming majority of plastics are made up of finite fossil energies extracted from the world. Plastics do not break down. Instead, they turn up in smaller portions, forming micro-plastics and nano-plastics. 

We need to reconsider our relationship with plastic. If plastic is to be used, it must be as little as possible. The government and various development organizations have, thankfully, taken several steps for creating mass awareness to beat plastic pollution.

Another alarming issue is the continued dumping of torn and abandoned fishing nets in the river courses that eventually find their way to the marine environment. A large number of megafauna, including dolphins, finless porpoises, and turtles are getting entangled and dying. We have experienced dozens of dead dolphins and wounded turtles coming to the shore with ocean waves. An EcoFish II team has been cleaning these netting materials in both Cox’s Bazar and Kuakata sea beaches with the help of the blue guards and fishers.

This USAID-funded activity has started offering training programs for a large number of boat skippers on responsible fishing and biodiversity conservation. They are now bringing back their empty water bottles and torn fishing nets to the shore for recycling, and thus reducing marine pollution. 

The role of the youth

ECOFISH-II, jointly implemented by the Department of Fisheries and WorldFish Bangladesh, has involved youth fishers as “blue guards” to keep the coastal waters clean. The activity has started a large-scale awareness-building campaign to observe the International Coastal Cleanup Day with various activities involving the government, non-government sector, and various other stakeholders, including the fishing communities.

Under the Blue Guard initiative, local young people, (18-35 years old) around Cox’s Bazar and the Kuakata sea beach areas and the Nijhum Dwip Marine Protected Areas (MPA) have been engaged for the eco-system health improvement and biodiversity conservation activities. ECOFISH II has inspired youths to volunteer in the collection of plastics, abandoned nets, and garbage from the beaches and coastal waters and fishing boats to reduce pollution and make a healthier marine environment habitat for the beach users and biodiversity.

So far, about 100 youths (including 20% women) are voluntarily engaged as blue guards, and the number will be increased to 200 by next year. The blue guards, after collecting plastics and discarded fishing nets from coastal waters and beaches, dispose of those materials through safely, or put them through a recycling system.

How can you be more ocean-friendly?

It’s the responsibility of everyone to restore the ocean, because we live on this planet. We all need a healthy sea for the survival of humanity as a whole. Our livelihoods, incomes, health, survival, all depend upon the ocean. Your simple steps will bring a big change. 

There’s a lot that we can do to help preserve the ocean: Think about consuming substitute products made from steel, glass, wood, or other natural fibres like cotton, jute, wool, and hemp -- instead of plastic. Decrease, recycle, and reuse any plastic materials. Use non-hazardous, natural detergents to avoid poisonous elements being poured down the drain. When you go to the beach, be responsible for the trash you generate, and make sure to leave no trace. 

Asaduzzaman Rassel is Communications Specialist, USAID/ECOFISH-II Activity, WorldFish Bangladesh.

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