Volunteers, activists clear Sandspit of trash

Marine life is negatively affected by buildup of pollution on the beach, say experts


Our Correspondent September 24, 2017
Participants from schools and civil society participated in the event. PHOTO: WWF-PAKISTAN

KARACHI: Pollution is a serious threat to marine life in Pakistani waters. It is adversely affecting marine turtles, seabirds and other marine life.

This was stated by speakers during a briefing at a beach cleaning drive organised by the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) - Pakistan and other partners to mark International Coastal Cleanup Week at Sandspit Beach.

More than 400 students from government as well as private schools participated in the event, which was also attended by representatives of the Sindh Solid Waste Management Board (SSWMB), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and civil society organisations, as well a large number of media representatives.

A total of 300 bags full of garbage were collected by participants and disposed of at a dumpsite in Jam Chakro by the SSWMB.

Speaking on the occasion, Muhammad Moazzam Khan, technical adviser at WWF-Pakistan, said that Sandspit Beach can be a potentially rich habitat for green turtles if the site remains undisturbed and safe for these amazing reptiles. According to an estimate, there are more than 3,000 turtle nests on the beach.

He said that the area has become more vulnerable due to beach developmental activities, encroachments and other anthropogenic threats. The major threat to the marine turtles at the beach is pollution, particularly plastic, rubber, glass and leather pollution, which interferes with their nesting cycle. He pointed out that about 12,000 metric tons of solid waste is generated in Karachi on a daily basis, of which about 40% is collected and disposed of in Jam Chakro and Goand Pass, whereas the remaining 60% is either burnt or finds its way into the sea through runoffs of nullahs and rivers. Beach visitors also contribute to the solid waste littered on the beach, as they usually do not take appropriate measures while disposing of their waste, especially plastic bottles and wrappers.

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Engineer Zahoor Ahmad, the assistant director at SSWMB, said that his organisation is working to remove solid waste from the city, however, because of limited resources all solid waste from the city is not collected and taken to the dumpsites. He pointed out that very soon all solid waste from the city will be properly lifted and recycled or taken to a dumpsite. He appreciated the efforts of WWF-Pakistan in arranging the cleanup event, which will help create awareness among students and other stakeholders.

South Asia Cooperative Environment Programme (SACEP) Sri Lanka Director-General Dr Muhammad Khursheed also took part in the drive and collected garbage to clean the beach.

Dr Babar Khan, regional head of Sindh and Balochistan at WWF-Pakistan shared that turtles maintain the health of the sea and poaching of turtle babies and their eggs is punishable under federal and provincial laws. Removing them from the waters negatively impacts the marine ecosystem, he explained.

Dr Khan also said that the death of the spinner dolphin found at the beach on Saturday seems to be caused by pollution, as it is increasing in the coastal waters of Sindh. He called for adequate disposal at dumpsites and controlling unauthorised dumping of garbage at beaches in the city. He also stressed the need to create awareness among the general public about rational use of plastic and promote the use of recyclable materials.

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Later, for the contribution towards nature conservation, certificates of participation were distributed among students. They also pledged to not only protect ecologically important sites in the city but to spread this message among other people and fellow students. The participants appreciated the initiative of WWF-Pakistan, which although a symbolic act, is part of the International Coastal Cleanup activity. WWF-Pakistan has also arranged similar events in the past.

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