Sundarbans Plastic problem!

Plastic | Sunderbans | 09th August 2021 | Virtual Wire

Dead fish and saline water were brought upstream by Cyclone Amphan, at Kakdwip in the Sunderbans, South 24 Parganas district, on May 22, 2020.

Sunderbans has been battered by many cyclones over the years, with Cyclone Yaas (May 2021) being the latest. To support the affected people, packaged relief material has been flowing into the Sunderbans.

Ecologist Diya Banerjee has been stating the difficulty from as early as June, days after cyclone Yaas inundated massive components of the Sunderbans in the final week of May 2021. The unregulated inflow of relief materials has resulted in the accumulation of plastic waste in the Sunderbans.

Large amounts of plastic waste have been observed in the remote areas of the Sundarbans, like Gosaba, Mousuni, Bali, Patharpratima and Kultali. Several NGOs, experts, and even officials of the District Police and the Forest Department have pointed out that the plastic accumulating on the isolated islands of the fragile ecosystem is cause for great concern.

Arijit Basu, Additional Superintendent of Police, Baruipur Police District of South 24 Parganas, had put up a put up on social media a number of weeks in the past, stating that reduction employees introduced plastic water bottles, which had been being disposed of all over the place.

The police officer urged locals and NGOs to organise cleanliness drives to take away plastic from the Sunderbans. Plastics in the Sunderbans would have both short term as well as long term ecological impacts on the Sundarbans ecosystem.

The presence of plastic in saline water increases the toxicity of the water. It could also contribute to the eutrophication of water. The ingestion of plastics by the local fauna will adversely impact their health.

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.

Experts additionally level out that the Sunderbans, which is residence to an inhabitant of 5 million, is largely dependent on fisheries and aquaculture, and any change in the fragile ecosystem can spell doom not just for the ecology but in addition to livelihoods.

Moreover, the Indian Sunderbans, a UNESCO World Heritage website, is residence to about 2,626 fauna, together with Royal Bengal Tigers, Gangetic Dolphins, saltwater crocodiles, and threatened species of freshwater turtles.

It is additionally residence to 428 chicken species. The enhance in plastic waste might pose a menace to the distinctive biodiversity of the area. The local administration along with the support of local NGOs and locals should organise cleanliness drives to remove plastic from the Sunderbans.

There should be regulation of plastic usage in the region and there should be clearly laid out guidelines to control the flow of plastic into the region. Any such plastic inflow should be properly disposed of with responsibility for the collection and disposal placed on appropriate authorities or the NGOs which are involved in relief material distribution.

Proper measures need to be taken to reduce single-use plastic usage in the region. More eco-friendly alternatives for plastic packaging should be prioritised. Some organisations are proactively avoiding plastic by distributing relief material in jute bags.

“We fully understand the threat to nature by plastic waste and have been using jute bags to distribute the relief material. We have so far distributed rations to around 150 families in 10 kgs of jute bags,” said Ronit Basu, co-founder of A Little Contribution, a student-based organisation based in Kolkata.

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