KARACHI: The Clifton Cantonment Board (CCB), responsible for providing municipal services to beach visitors, needs to adopt effective methods to clear the Clifton beach of polluting solid waste material that is posing as a serious threat to marine life, according to a recent Karachi University (KU) study. From the several types, those composed of buoyant and non-biodegradable synthetic plastic, polystyrene and aluminium foil raised the most concern.
The research titled ‘Quantities and composition of shore debris along Clifton beach, Karachi, Pakistan’, was published in the Journal of Coastal Conservation, Planning and Management. It was conducted by Ramzan Ali under the supervision of Prof Zafar Iqbal Shams at the Institute of Environmental Studies, KU.
A total of 2,043 items of 10 types with a corresponding weight of 12.66kg were collected from 10 sites of the Clifton beach in 2013.
According to the research, plastic (50.5pc) was the most abundant debris found along the beach, followed by food (20pc) and paper (6.6pc). In terms of weight, processed wood (25.5pc of the total) was the most abundant, followed by plastic (19.9pc) and metal (9.8pc).
The three-month average quantities of the debris collected showed that plastic items were significantly higher than any other type found on the beach. It also classified the debris on the basis of size and found that metal, glass, paper, plastic and rubber items were largely smaller in size while Styrofoam (made from a petroleum-based plastic), processed wood and cloth items were mostly large in size.
Beach visitors are the main contributor of debris along the beach. Restaurants, cafes and hawkers serve them with beverages, food and mild stimulants, such as betel nuts, fennel seeds and gutka, which are packed in plastic, polystyrene and aluminum foil.
“Moreover, the Clifton beach is flanked by two ephemeral rivers, the Lyari and Malir rivers, which carry the floating debris along the city’s effluents. A major part of this floating debris is plastic and polythene bags, which is ultimately largely deposited along the city’s shorelines,” the report says.
Highlighting the adverse impact of solid pollutants along the beach, the study also says that the persistent accumulation of man-induced beach debris is currently a major global concern since it has marked a visible impact on almost all beach fronts.
Even the most remote beach fronts on earth with little or no human activity, it says, have substantial quantities of debris particularly those composed of buoyant and non-biodegradable synthetic plastic and polystyrene.
Man-induced beach debris, according to the report, poses a serious threat to marine mammals, seabirds and sea turtles mainly through ingestion and entanglement.
Clifton beach, it says, on an average, was contaminated with 8,172 items per kilometer in June, 10,562 items per km in July and 7,856 items per km in August while the average weight of debris on the beach front was estimated to be 50.7kg per km in June, 64.7km in July and 49.1kg per km in August.
“The debris along the beach, however, could be reduced by enhancing its periodic collection by the CCB, which is responsible for providing municipal services to beach visitors,” it states.
The study points out that the debris load along the beach front of Clifton is higher when compared to data from similar studies conducted in the Gulf of Oman, Australia and Falkland Islands. The high level of debris on the Clifton beach, it says, may be due to higher human population in Karachi and a greater use of the Clifton beach compared to these beaches.
However, if compared with beaches like those of the Caribbean Islands and South Africa and Belgium, the Clifton beach, it concludes, is moderately polluted.
The study is the first of its kind in Pakistan focusing on the abundance and composition of debris along the Clifton beach.
Published in Dawn, October 26th, 2015