May 9, 2018 (BE2C2) — Plastic comprised 51 per cent of all debris found at the Clifton Beach, according to a 3-month study conducted by a student of the University of Karachi’s Institute of Environmental Studies.
Ramzan Ali, who moved to the UK for postgraduate studies in 2015, conducted this research as part of his final year thesis in 2013.
“The Karachi beach is not in good condition, which is why it was decided to conduct this research,” Ali said then.
Several experts say that over the years, the percentage of plastic contamination of Karachi beaches have gone up and the situation is worse, notwithstanding other pollutants including toxic being part of the growing problem the mega city– Pakistan’s economic powerhouse continues to face.
Back in 2005, following mass mortality of coastal fish, the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) had informed the federal environment protection body (EPA) that all was not well at the DHA/Clifton beach, and that it should move for remedial measures at the earliest.
Director General of NIO, Dr M.M. Rabbani, had told Dawn that efforts were definitely needed to improve the quality of beach sediments.
He said then that he had already talked to the federal EPA on the subject and it was likely that some preventive and precautionary measures would be initiated from Islamabad soon.
Much of the waste generated by Karachi’s huge population — as well as by thousands of textile, plastics, leather and chemical factories — flows directly into the Arabian Sea.
With regards to the implications of the high presence of plastic, a non-biodegradable material, experts say it is a hazard, not only for marine life and their habitat, but also impacts the food chain cycle, which ultimately affects humans. “The thing with other debris like food, cloth and processed wood is that they are eventually eliminated from water. Since plastic doesn’t decompose, it remains intact and travels in the water to other countries.”
Ali and Professor Shams — his advisor, said plastic reduction is the only plausible solution to this problem. “In instances where plastics cannot be replaced, efforts should be made for its recycling,” said Shams.
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Experts say there is a need to strengthen the beach debris management system and ensure that the beach is cleaned regularly.
One way could be what Guetamala is doing on its beaches.
Guetamala is stopping trash from entering the sea by using special plastic-catching barriers.
They are called biofences. And they capture trash floating on the surface of the river.
The biofences are made by attaching floating containers to a mesh. Local people empty the containers every day. And they take the waste to recycling centers.
60 percent less rubbish ends up in the sea thanks to the barrier.
Nearby beaches in Honduras which were once covered in junk are now much cleaner.
10 bio-fences are being used so far. And the government is considering more permanent structures.
Could the federal government, EPA, and the provincial setup learn from Guetamala?
Such a step could be help resolve the problem while a sustainable solution is worked on the sources causing pollution in the metropolis.
“Everybody knows the city has no sewage treatment plant as the entire effluent, including the hazardous industrial waste, is being discharged into the sea,” said Hina Baig, a senior scientist at the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) which is conducting a comprehensive study to assess the scale of pollution affecting the entire city coast.
“The case of Clifton beach, however, is more serious as it is frequented by huge crowds. Besides the waste coming from the Lyari river, untreated waste from nearby residential areas as well as restaurants directly goes into the sea here,” said NIO Director General Dr Asif Inam.
Dr Babar Khan, regional head of Sindh and Balochistan WWF-Pakistan also called for government measures to protect beaches and create awareness on the rationale use of plastic and to promote the use of recyclable materials.
Pakistan was a signatory to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 14 under which it had the obligation to control land-based pollution, Dr. Inam said.