What is Marine pollution?
Marine pollution can be defined as the contamination of marine water, mainly big seas and oceans with pollutants and contaminants like industrial effluents, oil spills from huge vessels, chemical displacements, chemical spills, sewage etc.
Plastics, garbage, litter etc that we throw into our waste baskets ultimately end up in far off oceans, also contributing to marine pollution.
In general, pollution can be defined as any physical, chemical or biological agent that tends to contaminate the air, water and soil of an environment.
It has the ability to transform/toxicate the basic elemental components that degrade the natural balance of the ecosystem.
Pollution can be of various types, air pollution, water pollution, noise pollution, radioactive pollution etc. Aquatic pollution can be categorized into marine pollution and fresh water pollution.
Due to uncontrolled developmental activities, urbanization and various anthropogenic activities, there is dumping of hazardous waste directly or indirectly into marine waters.
Most of this dumping happens without our knowledge and thus directly or indirectly, we are responsible for the hordes of waste and dirt that set sail on far off ocean waters.
Sources of Marine pollution
- One of the biggest sources of marine pollution is the oil spill due to collision of oil tanks.
- A considerable amount of runoff from the excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers in fields is the second largest contributor to marine pollution.
- Oil exploration and shipping industries are also one of the major contributing factors of marine pollution. This, coupled with transportation of large amounts of crude oil from one place to another often results in marine pollution.
- Thermal power plants release huge quantities of hot water in bulk which in turn leads to thermal shocks and loss of insulation in aquatic animals.
- Natural processes like volcanic activity, tremors, and cyclones play a catastrophic role in accidental spillage of petroleum and oil.
We have for sure visited seas and oceans and admired nature and its beauty. The scenic waters, the boundless beauty of nature sure catches our attention when we visit a place tucked in the lap of nature.
Amidst all this, we even crib about the dirt that keeps sailing on ocean waters. Unknowingly, we ourselves are responsible for the throw of such dirt that is afloat on sea and ocean waters.
The garbage that we throw into collection points at home gets segregated at appropriate units and the wet wastes go into the dumping ground.
The rest of the dry waste heap is dumped at places in the outskirts of cities. With the forces of nature, they are gradually taken too far off, unknown places which ultimately land in sea and ocean waters.
This is what we find sailing on beaches, seas and oceans. If we are unable to see the dirt on waters, we can imagine how choking they must be to the marine life inside the sea water.
Let us remind ourselves that there is a world of life inside the marine waters, some of which we know and majority of which we don’t know.
The life under marine waters seems mysterious at the same time curious for the exploitative minds. We have been talking about how pollution causes disturbance to the ecology on land.
We have hardly thought about the creatures underwater.
If we dwell further into this topic, we would find that the life under ocean is very beautiful, at the same time threatened by man-made factors, killing and choking them to death.
Marine life was undisturbed till a certain time ago when oil spills became a normal thing, the spill of chemical wastes into big oceans was just another thing and there were no special attachments to it.
Hence we find the marine life disturbed by a whole lot of factors such as oil spills, chemical interferences, sewage contributions etc. These specific causes pollute the marine waters, thus causing huge damage to marine life.
Effects of Marine pollution
- Natural pH of the water body is altered; therefore it does not support the aquatic flora and fauna.
- There is a reduction in the Dissolved oxygen in the aquatic system, causing asphyxiation.
- Aquatic fauna is suffocated as the hydrocarbons in oils clog the gills and other structures of fish.
- There is widespread contamination of commercial fish. When the spillage is over a large area, it creates a thin film on the sea surface called oil slick. It contaminates the internal organs of creatures and thus causes food poisoning upon consumption.
- Deteriorates the aesthetic value by water fouling and algal bloom.
- Loss of biological diversity and destabilization of food chains and food webs.
Let us just imagine that there has been an oil spill from a huge vessel and by the time the authorities wake up to the spill, it has already spread far and wide.
Since oil cannot dissolve in water, the surface of the water is seen colored badly with the spread of oil. The marine life under the spilled area is highly under threat.
The natural composition and constituents of water has totally changed and there is hardly any way the natural balance of marine water can be restored.
Nature takes its time to restore the natural balance of the good waters, so a significant damage has thus set in.
If we were given a glass of water mixed with cooking oil to swallow, would we be able to do it, I wonder.
It’s just not possible because the penetration of oil particles into water molecules alters the constituent composition of water and makes it an altogether different mixture.
So, water mixed with oil becomes a varied mixture, not rendering its natural efficacy.
Just a drop of such water kept on our tongue gives us such a bad feeling.
So, we should be able to understand how difficult marine life under such unfit waters should be living with. In short, marine life, once toxicated with chemical elements loses its natural beauty and it takes many years to restore the natural life balance again.
Solutions for marine pollution
- We can adhere to the 3R policy that is reuse, reduce and recycle our resources to reduce consumption and waste management.
- Organize a cleanup spree with awareness campaigns to highlight the importance of a clean healthy environment.
- Substituting jute bags over plastic bags.
- Consciously, reducing in the overall ecological and carbon print by carpooling, cycling, turning off the lights and fans when not in use.
- Commonly used method for an oil spillage is skimming; it is because the density of oil is lighter than the density of water because of which they can be easily separated.
- Usage of absorbents, natural absorbents like sponges can soak the contaminants leaving the area pollutant free.
We cannot avoid huge oil spills, because most of these incidences occur after taking enough precautions while transporting oil in vessels from one region to another.
We should at least take preventive measures and work towards reducing pollution in areas that we can achieve less toxicity and less contamination.
Such measures may include proper waste management systems, recycling of waste water for purposes like gardening, washing cars, etc.
Instead of channeling all wastes ultimately towards the oceans, we must give a thought to the life under waters too.
If we bring in a supported approach, a scientifically incubated approach that will drift away the accumulation of wastes away from marine waters, we would be successful in providing a second life to aquatic and marine creatures.
As per article 51-A, it is the duty of every citizen to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife.
The more we try to understand the functioning of such complex systems, the more we come to realize that these systems are systemic in nature and are interrelated and interdependent on each other’s components.
Hence, it is important to maintain the right balance by creating a pollution free environment and reducing our dependency on natural resources to make this planet a better place for ourselves and for the coming future generations.