The Sunday Leader

Sri Lanka In Fifth Place For Dumping Plastic In To The Sea

by Hafsa Sabry

Sri Lanka has been placed fifth out of twenty in a research done on the countries around the world that dump plastic and polythene waste into marine environment harming the marine environment and the organisms living in it. According to Amy Nordum, a science writer at the International Business Times the research was done on 192 countries. But only 20 countries were observed to dump non-recyclable wastes into the marine environment.

Out of which Sri Lanka was placed fifth while China, Indonesia Philippines and Vietnam were placed from the first to fourth places respectively. Marine conservationists claim that the sea creatures and the sea will be severally harmed by the wastes dumped into the sea. The research also revealed that over 13 million tons of non-recyclable wastes is dumped annually in to the sea , 80% of the waste was observed to be polythene and plastic from 20 countries including Sri Lanka while 30% of the wastes were dumped by China.

Industries of these 20 countries were alleged to have violated the laws and the regulations applicable to marine protection and they fail to maintain a proper waste management system. “This issue is on the rise and the sea creatures are threatened by their illegal activities,” the Director of Center for Environment and Nature Studies (CENS) and the Environmentalist Ravindra Kariyawasam said.

International Business Times also revealed that the per capita waste of 5.1Kg is dumped into the environment of which 300 Kg was found to be plastic wastes. According to the figures shown in the research 5163689Kg of non-recyclable wastes and 74297687Kg of recyclable wastes are generated every day in Sri Lanka.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader Kariyawasam claimed that while there are no proper mechanisms to control the escalating garbage issue, the Sri Lankan authorities and the officials of the Environment Ministry are having discussions on dumping the wastes collected in Colombo in the reservations of Wilpattu which is another disaster for the wildlife and the creatures living in it.

There are laws in Sri Lanka for the protection and preservation of ecosystems in oceans and seas. Marine conservation focuses on limiting human-caused damage to marine ecosystems, and on restoring damaged marine ecosystems. But the legislations and regulations of are not effective. Factories that dump waste into the sea turn a blind eye to the laws of marine protection. As a result the vulnerable marine species and coral reefs which have a great amount of biodiversity are threatened.

There are too many sources to contaminate the sea water and the natural habitats of them but the solutions provided and practiced either by the government or the people are few. Since oceans are part of the food chain, marine pollution affects wide spectra of species, including humans. Ocean and human life is so inextricably interwoven that the effects of marine pollution are clearly visible on human life.

Sources of plastics include waste disposal from plastic industries, plastic garbage from ships, and litter on beaches. Plastics can stick to marine life and affect their breathing or swimming. When settled on the sea bed, the plastics can also smother any life that calls the sea floor home. Discarded fishing nets can continue to catch huge numbers of fish. Small plastic fragments can be mistaken as food by fish or other sea life which can kill them by filling up or damaging their stomach or other digestive organs.

Kariyawasam also explained that when organic matter is disposed into the sea, the matter absorbs dissolved oxygen which reduces the level of oxygen in the ocean that marine organisms require. This organic matter also feeds algae blooms that are already present in the water, stimulating their growth. This decomposing alga not only depletes the oxygen content but also releases toxic substances that are harmful to marine organisms. The toxins can even enter food chain through fish or other sea organisms, which in turn, can poison humans.

Nevertheless, the main sources of organic matter pollution are sewage plants, forestry, farming, and also airborne nitrogen oxides from automobiles and power plants. Algae blooms that feed on human sewage also causes discoloration of water due to the decomposition of matter. Algae blooms can choke fish gills and even poison them with the chemicals created from the decomposition process.

In addition, human sewage also contains bacteria and pathogens that contaminate the coastal areas by accumulating on shores and beaches. This might even enter the food chain or spread diseases like cholera, typhoid, or other dangerous diseases. One more source of pathogens is the water used to wash livestock that is disposed into the sea. This water contains high level of germs and bacteria.

Sediments from dredging and mining makes the sea water cloudy, preventing sunlight to reach the marine plants on the sea bed as there is a layer of oil covering the sea water surface. When heavy sediments settle on the ocean floor can bury fish and other delicate species such as coral reefs.

However, this country is run by the politicians who sell garbage wastes and make money while the underworld leaders are also involved in the business. The protest staged by the Meethotamulla residents were obstructed and were attacked by these influential individuals so that they can continue with their garbage businesses alleged Kariyawasam.

Till the people who use polythene and plastic stop the usage or the politicians and the relevant authorities make ways to arrest this issue there will not be a solution to this serious problem which is on the rise. Kariyawasam claimed that if the issue was not addressed by the government and the relevant authorities, Sri Lanka will be the first in the 20 main countries that dump wastes into the marine environment harming the salt water creatures and the sea water habitats as well as the humans.

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