Cyclone-ravaged Sunderbans is now drowning in plastic

Source: The Hindu

Synopsis

The unregulated inflow of relief materials in the Sunderbans region has resulted in a new crisis in the cyclone battered region: Plastic Waste.

Background:
  • Sunderbans has been battered by many cyclones over the years, with Cyclone Yaas being the latest.
  • To support the affected people, packaged relief material has been flowing into the Sunderbans.
  • The unregulated inflow of relief materials has resulted in the accumulation of plastic waste in the Sunderbans.
What are the concerns raised by the NGOs?

Plastics in the Sunderbans would have both short term and long term ecological impacts.

  • The presence of plastic in saline water increases the toxicity of water and could also contribute to the eutrophication of water.
  • The breakdown of plastics in the water will lead to an increase in microplastics, which would subsequently enter the food system.
  • Given that Sunderbans is connected to the sea, the increase of plastic in the region could lead to plastic waste entering the ocean.
  •  Sunderbans is largely dependent on fisheries and aquaculture and any change in the delicate ecosystem can spell doom not only for the ecology but also for livelihoods. 
  • Moreover, the Indian Sunderbans, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to about 2,626 faunas, including Royal Bengal Tigers, Gangetic Dolphins, saltwater crocodiles, and threatened species of freshwater turtles. Hence, an increase in plastic waste may pose a threat to the unique biodiversity of the region.
Steps to be taken:
  • Tight vigil on the entrances to the Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve and the Sundarbans Tiger Reserve. 
  • NGOs and locals should be encouraged to collect plastic waste, which should also be recycled.
  • Organize cleanliness drives to remove plastic from the Sunderbans.

 

 

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