A rising tide of sewage is threatening to overwhelm world seas and oceans, endangering human health, wildlife and livelihood of million ranging from fishermen to those employed in tourism industry, the United Nations has warned.
Recognising that good progress has been made in curbing oil and chemical pollution, the world body says much greater effort is needed to meet the threat being posed by sewage.
An estimated 80 per cent of marine pollution originates from the land and this could rise significantly by 2050 if, as expected, the coastal populations double in just about 40 years, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner said, stressing the need for immediate steps and accelerated effort to combat the threat.
“We have a long way to go politically, technically and financially if we are to hand over healthy and productive seas and oceans to the next generation,” he said, pointing out that $56 billion are needed annually just to address the waste water problem.
A just released UN Study says that about 90 per cent of the sewage entering coastal zone in many development is raw and untreated, a situation that is unacceptable.
Beyond the direct health and economic impact on health and livelihoods, the report underscores rising concern over the increasing destruction of essential and economically important coastal ecosystems like mangrove forests, coral reefs and sea-grass beds.
The study notes that levels of oily wastes discharged from industry and cities has been cut globally by close to 90 per cent since the mid 1980s, and other successes are being scored in curbing marine contamination from toxic persistent organic pollutants like DDT and discharges of radioactive wastes, though there are still areas of concern in the Caspian and western Mediterranean seas and the Arctic and South Pacific oceans.
The report says overall good progress is being made on three of nine key indicators, is mixed for two and is heading in the wrong direction for four, including sewage, marine litter and “nutrient” pollution from sources like agriculture and animal wastes that fertilize coastal zones.
This is triggering toxic algal blooms and a rising number of oxygen deficient ‘dead zones,’ it warns.
It also flags up fresh areas in need of urgent attention such as the declining flows in many of the world’s rivers as a result of dams, over-abstraction and global warming; new streams of chemicals; the state of coastal and freshwater wetlands and sea-level rise linked with climate change.
It calls for improved monitoring and data collection on continents like Africa where the level of hard facts and figures on marine pollution remains fragmented and woefully low.