Marine Pollution In India And Its Laws
The ocean constitute almost 70% of the globe. It is estimated that around 50-80%
of Oxygen produced on Earth comes from the oceans.
Marine pollution also known as oceans pollutions comes from Oil spills, plastic,
industrial waste, chemical waste, and agricultural waste from human resources,
all these combined contribute to pollute our oceans and thus comes within the
terminology of marine pollution.
The well being of the oceans and humanity are inextricably linked to one another
and yet here we are destroying our one of the most important factors of the
biodiversity that we all are a part of.
It does not only effect us but also the marine ecosystem,- oceans acidification,
climate change, polluting activities and exploitation of ocean resources have
led to some serious damage over the years to our oceans.
Causes of Marine Pollution
Sewage is defined as wastewater and its component excrements that are
transported in the sewer system. Sewage is mostly comprised of the human waste
from toilet flushing, dirty water from bathing and even animal waste. Most of
the wastes find their way into the ocean waters through the sewer systems.
Industrial Chemicals Another major pollutant is the chemicals from industries
and from the fertilizers and other farm products that are carried by run-off
water into the ocean waters. Many industries dump their waste materials and
chemicals into the ocean waters.
Nuclear Waste Another major ocean pollutant is the nuclear waste, which is
mostly produced from industrial, medical, and also scientific procedures that
use radioactive material. The common industries that produce nuclear waste
include power stations, the military, and reprocessing plants.
Plastics Plastic pollution mainly involves the accumulation of plastic in the
ocean waters and thus causing adverse effects on marine organisms. Marine
organisms are affected by the plastics through direct ingestion of the plastic
wastes and also through exposure to chemicals that are within the plastics.
Oil Spills Oil spillage is another primary cause of ocean pollution in that the
oil forms a layer on the water preventing oxygen circulation. Lack of oxygen in
the ocean waters results in the destruction of marine life over a long period.
Ocean mining in the deep sea is yet another source of ocean pollution. Ocean
mining sites drilling for silver, gold, copper, cobalt, and zinc create sulfide
deposits up to three and a half thousand meters down into the ocean.
According to National Geographic:
Many ocean pollutants are released into the environment far upstream from
coastlines. Nitrogen-rich fertilizers applied by farmers inland, for example,
end up in local streams, rivers, and groundwater and are eventually deposited in
estuaries, bays, and deltas. These excess nutrients can spawn massive blooms of
algae that rob the water of oxygen, leaving areas where little or no marine life
Plastic Pollution: In 2006, the United Nations Environment Programme estimated
that every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of floating plastic.
Once discarded, plastics are weathered and eroded into very small fragments
known as micro-plastics. These together with plastic pellets are already found
in most beaches around the world. Plastic materials and other litter can become
concentrated in certain areas called gyres as a result of marine pollution
gathered by oceanic currents.
For example, the North Pacific Gyre is now referred to as the Great Pacific
Garbage Patch, where waste material from across the North Pacific Ocean,
including coastal waters off North America and Japan, are drawn together.
In addition to all these factors, the oceans are highly affected by carbon
dioxide and climate changes, which impacts primarily the ecosystems and fish
communities that live in the ocean.
In particular, the rising levels of CO2 leads to ocean acidification.
Other factors like coastal tourism, port and harbour developments, damming of
rivers, urban development and construction, mining, fisheries, aquaculture etc.,
are all sources of marine pollution threatening coastal and marine habitats,
effects of Ocean Pollution.
Effect of Toxic Wastes on Marine Animals:
The long term effect on marine life
can include cancer, failure in the reproductive system, behavioural changes, and
Disruption to the Cycle of Coral Reefs: Oil spill floats on the surface of the
water and prevents sunlight from reaching marine plants and affects the process
of photosynthesis.Depletes Oxygen Content in Water: Most of the debris in the
ocean does not decompose and remain in the ocean for years.
Due to this, oxygen levels go down, as a result, the chances of survival of
marine animals like whales, turtles, sharks, dolphins, penguins for a long time
also goes down.Excessive nutrients from sewage outfalls and agricultural runoff
have contributed to the number of low oxygen (hypoxic) areas known as dead
zones, where most marine life cannot survive, resulting in the collapse of some
There are now close to 500 dead zones covering more than 245,000 km² globally,
equivalent to the surface of the United Kingdom.
When a water body becomes overly enriched with minerals and
nutrients which induce excessive growth of algae or algal bloom.
This process also results in oxygen depletion of the water body.
Failure in the Reproductive System of Sea Animals:
Chemicals from pesticides can
accumulate in the fatty tissue of animals, leading to failure in their
Effect on Food Chain:
Small animals ingest the discharged chemicals and are
later eaten by large animals, which then affects the whole food chain, Global
The Global Programme of Action (GPA) for the Protection of the Marine
Environment from Land-based Activities:
The GPA is the only global intergovernmental mechanism directly addressing the
connectivity between terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems.
MARPOL convention (1973)
It covers pollution of the marine environment by ships from operational or
It lists various forms of marine pollution caused by oil, noxious liquid
substances, harmful substances in packaged form, sewage and garbage from ships,
The London Convention (1972)
Its objective is to promote the effective control of all sources of marine
pollution and to take all practicable steps to prevent pollution of the sea by
dumping of wastes and other matter.
It is an environmental NGO that is dedicated to conserving the oceans and marine
life across the globe. Its grassroots efforts have resulted in the ban of
destructive fishing practices, companies changing their fishing policies, and
the creation of whale sanctuaries.
How to prevent Ocean pollution?
Implement renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar power, to limit
off-shore drilling Limit agricultural pesticides and encourage organic farming &
eco-friendly pesticide use.
Proper sewage treatment and exploration of eco-friendly wastewater treatment
options. Cut down on the industry and manufacturing waste and contain it
into landfills to avoid spillage.
Use of Biotechnology: Bioremediation (use of specific microorganisms to
metabolize and remove harmful substances) to treat oil spills.
At individual level reduce carbon footprint by adopting a "green" lifestyle.
Have a global treaty on banning single-use plastics and collaborated effort to
clean up the ocean.
The world's oceans their temperature, chemistry, currents and life - drive
global systems that make the Earth habitable for humankind. Over three billion
people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods.
In this context, ocean health must be treated as a global issue and all nations
should act in concert to implement Sustainable Development Goal: 14 i.e. To
conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for
S. Jagannath vs Union Of India & Ors on 11 December, 1996
With noticeable increase in marine pollution and the consequential decline
in marine resources, serious concern was expressed in the United Nations'
Conference on Human Environments in Stockholm (1972) attracting global attention
towards the urgent need of identifying the critically polluted areas of
the marine environments, specially in coastal waters, for urgent remedial
The Conference unanimously resolved that the littoral States should
take early action at their National level for assessment and control
of marine pollution from all sources and carry out systematic monitoring to
ascertain the efficacy of the pollution regulatory actions taken by them.
background of the Stockholm Conference and in view of 1982 Convention on the
"Law of the Sea" defining jurisdiction of territorial waters, a model
comprehensive Action Plan has been evolved under the United Nations' Environment Programme (UNEP). Keeping with the international commitments and in greater
National interest, the Government of India and the Governments of the coastal
States are under a legal obligation to control marine pollution and protect the
M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India AIR 1988 SCR (2) 538
The writ petition filed by the activist advocate M.C. Mehta in the Supreme Court
highlighted the pollution of the Ganga river by the hazardous industries located
on its banks. Justice ES Venkataramiah gave a historic judgement ordering the
closure of a number of polluting tanneries near Kanpur.
In this judgment it was observed that just like an industry which cannot pay
minimum wages to its workers cannot be allowed to exist, a tannery which cannot
setup a primary treatment plant cannot be permitted to continue to be in
Foreign Ships Entering In Indian Ocean
A bench headed by Justice Raghuvendra S Rathore said all the vessels, Indian and
Foreign, entering into Indian Maritime Zone are subject to relevant provisions
of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, Air (Prevention and Control of
Pollution) Act, 1981, as well as rules framed there under until comprehensive
Indian Merchant Shipping Rules come into force.
"The various regulatory authorities charged with the responsibilities under the
Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution)
Act, 1981, and rules made thereunder, the Central Pollution Control Board and
the State Pollution Control Boards will regulate the air as well as various
other pollution caused by the Indian vessels as well as the Foreign vessels
entering into Indian Maritime Zone," the bench said.
Marine Debris Law And Policy In India
Marine pollution, as a distinct subject, has neither been dealt with in policy
nor economics in India. In tackling marine litter, Indian policy has been
restricted to the banning of single-use plastic a fact evidenced by an
international report of the Marine Litter Legislation by the United Nations
Environment Programme in 2016. The report mentions Indian efforts only in
the case of a ban on plastic-bags. India's ban applies only to certain types of
plastic- notably plastic bags of a certain thickness.
While this move has been
welcome, it is certainly not even close to the solution if segregation, and
eventual incineration of polypropylene (coming from all sources of plastic),
does not happen.
the UN report has several sections on developing
policy to tackle marine litter. Banning any single-use plastic is under the
sub-heading Prohibiting and Disincentivizing use of Land-based Material Causing
Marine Litter at the Retail Level.
There are other sections on managing and
restricting waste disposal into the marine environment (from landfills) and in
all these sections, Indian policy is undeveloped. This extends to policy on
public and private sector engagement on tackling marine pollution, research programmes, and engagement of universities. Unless all processes at the
central, state, and regional levels work in tandem with one another, our
oceans will face continued threats in the form of plastic.
To add to this, unpacking oceans governance in India as a topic, is daunting in
and of itself. One of the reasons is that there is no consolidated national
institutional framework dealing with oceans in a holistic manner. The Ministry
of Earth Sciences, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, the
Ministry of External Affairs, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, the
Ministry of Agriculture (Department of Fisheries), and the Ministry of Defence
(the Indian Coast Guard and the Indian Navy) are all stakeholders in ocean
These ministries and departments do not necessarily mesh with one
another, resulting in a significant amount of dissonance. In an attempt to
resolve some of this, there has been a slew of 'Blue Economy' programmes in
India over the past few years.
However, the 'Blue Economy' is a large concept,
within which marine debris is but a part, and not one heralding the most
attention either. Given the need to bolster economic activity in the maritime
sectors of fisheries, offshore oil, gas and wind, and even deep-sea mining,
specific issues that are required to address marine debris in a pointed manner
remain largely ignored or are paid little more than lip service.
There was some
talk last year of building a National Marine Litter Policy for India, which was
to be funded by Norway as part of another Blue Economy programme. Information
of whether and how that policy developed is currently not in the public domain.
There is another unique angle to how Indian environmental policy works, or
rather, doesn't work. Often, many different stakeholders end-up carving the
skeletal policy for a topic such as the Blue Economy and, by extension,
marine pollution. To have a meaningful impact, a programme must have four
elements identifying the problem, offering pointed solutions, implementing the
ideas through a pilot project, and, reviewing the implementation so that
successful pilot-projects can be upscaled, and plans that do not work can be
However, insofar as developing a well-sounded plan to address marine
litter/pollution in India is concerned, we remain stuck at the Problem
Identification stage. Several 'Blue Economy' reports highlight the need to fix
the problem but none go beyond that. The importance of safeguarding our oceans
and oceanic resources needs no further emphasis and no additional 'statements
of noble intent'.
What is needed, instead, is an end-to-end plan in which the
important facets of technology, tech-finance, policy and regulation, tax, as
well as revenue-positive economic models, and so forth are made to work together
to find a sustainable, long-term solution that will keep our oceans healthy. At
the very least, addressing marine pollution and stopping practices that add to
it should be high on India's political and social agendas.
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