Effect Of Plastic Pollution On Marine Life In Pakistan

Sumayya Khalid

Effect Of Plastic Pollution On Marine Life In Pakistan

We are surrounded by plastic in the form of food containers, drink bottles, grocery bags, plastic utensils, straw for juices boxes and many other materials being packed in plastic material etc. This list goes on and on due to lightweight, strong, moisture resistant, flexible and inexpensive nature of plastic. Plastic is a non-biodegradable product.  The simplest form of plastic generally used in grocery bags take about 100 years to break down, while the complex ones take about 100-600 years or even more than this. According to the report of Environmental Protection Agency, every bit of plastic ever produced still exists.  Due to slow degradation and durability, it becomes waste with staying power. About 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced from the 1950s up to 2018. According to estimate containers and food, wrappers create 31.15% waste in the environment, containers cap and bottles cause 15.5% of pollution, plastic bags produce 11.18%, stirrers and straw create 8.13%, and beverage bottles produce 7.27% pollution in the environment. Out of this, an estimated 9% has been recycled and 12% incinerated. Billions of pounds of plastic are finding its way into oceans every year. This is making up around 40% of the world’s ocean surfaces. Most of the ocean pollution starts out on land and is carried by rain and wind to the ocean. This adversely affects the environment posing threat to the survival of human and marine life.

In Pakistan plastic products in the form of utensils and toys, have been used even earlier to its foundation in 1947. However, there was a noticeable rise in the plastic use from 1965-1975. Today, plastic materials constitute the 4th largest import item. Due to nonstop dumping, there are heaps of plastic waste everywhere in street corners, water channels, freshwater bodies and marine water. According to the report of World Wide Fund for Nature Pakistan (WWF-P), Clifton beach plastic pollution contributes up to 50% of beached waste. This waste includes plastic bags, caps, bottles, broken utensils, wrappers, discarded fishnets, and shoes etc. Now, even remote beaches including Gawadar and Kund Malir, are littered with plastic, which is affecting marine life, including seabirds.

Marine animals misidentify floating plastic for foodstuffs. They engulf it and in most cases, marine animals get entangled in it which has serious consequences. WWF-Pakistan reported a number of cases of marine animals stuck in plastic products leading to injury and sometimes death. On October 1, 2017, Noor Muhammad, a WWF-P trained fisherman reported a giant catfish enfolded near its head with plastic strapping found 135 nautical miles southwest of Karachi. The plastic strapping was stabbed in the flesh of the fish that initiated severe scratch and swelling causing fish mortality finally. In another incident, along with the Baluchistan coast, while operating a tuna boat, Mahar Gul, a skipper trained by World Wide Fund for Nature Pakistan found a spot-tail shark entangled in a polythene bag on October 11, 2017. Shark was caught 160 nautical miles south of Astola Island. Inflammation and laceration caused slow mortality of shark. The spot-tail shark is found in offshore waters. Its entanglement is an indication that plastic waste is badly affecting the marine life. Marine turtles which are delight and pride of beachgoers in Karachi mistakenly take the plastic bag for jellyfish and eat it which kills them. 

Due to deadly consequences of plastic waste, there is a dire need to control this pollution.

  • We need to create awareness among the public about controlling the use of plastic and promote the use of recyclable items.
  • Promote 4R concept (Reject, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) for plastic products.
  • Reduce use of single-use plastics. Single-use plastics include water bottles, disposable utensils, cups, straws, and plastic bags and other plastic materials that are used only once and then thrown away. Encourage use of the reusable version of these items like reusable utensils, cups, and garment bag for grocery.
  • Countries like France, Bangladesh, and Rwanda have duly banned the use of plastic bags. Pakistan lags behind in initiatives like this. We should support such kinds of the ban in our country to save our environment and marine animals from life-threatening plastic pollution.

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