WHILE climate change remains a matter of global concern and has remained under the spotlight for quite some time, one critical aspect remains less talked about, if not ignored, at least in Pakistan. International research has proved that understanding ocean contamination is a critical aspect of the whole phenomenon, and its management needs an interdisciplinary approach involving toxicologists, physicochemical and biological oceanographers, environmental modellers, chemists and engineers with proper background of biomedical research.

In Pakistan, one of the most potent efforts in this regard is led by the University of Karachi’s Institute of Environmental Studies.

Established in 1982, the institute is the oldest and pioneering facility in the relevant field which has been recognised as the technical focal point on environmental health activities by the World Health Organisation Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean (WHO-EMRO).

A recent study warned that the world’s worsening crisis requires an immediate and urgent response, which experts are only beginning to comprehend.

The seas, which cover more than two-thirds of the planet, offer billions of people worldwide food, livelihoods, and cultural and recreational value. These numerous advantages are threatened by ocean pollution, caused mainly by human activity.

More than 80 per cent of ocean pollution originates on land and is transported to the oceans by overflow, rivers, deposition of air, and direct discharges. It is located heavily along the beaches of low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

The pollutants include mercury, plastic debris, industrial chemicals, petroleum wastes, agricultural runoff, and biological dangers, such as hazardous algae. People are mostly affected by these poisons by consuming contaminated seafood.

Research suggests that the essential thing to understand about marine pollution is that, like all forms of pollution, it can be avoided by enacting laws, regulations, technologies, and enforcement activities that target the most significant pollution sources.

A number of countries have significantly cleansed polluted harbours, revitalised estuaries, and rebuilt coral reefs using various technologies. Tourism has grown, fisheries have been recovered, people’s health has improved, and economic prosperity has been noted as a result of these remedial steps.

On the research front, countries need to be aware of ocean contamination’s effects on human health.

On the basis of the resulting awareness and understanding, protective policies can be put into practice, like enhanced monitoring of ocean pollution, and assessing human exposure to marine contaminants.

Community engagement is another aspect that should be focussed upon.

Areeba Khan
Karachi

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2022

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