Time and again, pictures of aquatic animals washing ashore, with objects of metal coming out of their mouth, balloons stuck in their throats, straws blocking their nasal passage and plastic strings strangulating them, surfaces on the Internet and sends cold shivers down our spine. Dying a slow, brutal death is never on any living being’s mind, but when such an end is met, it serves as a reality check that is much-needed. Pollution in the ocean and marine life is the new battle that the world is fighting, gearing up simultaneously with rapid climatic crisis and temperatures crossing 45 degrees in the mostly-cold Europe, while there are massive hailstone storms in Mexico.
While the entire globe faces the harsh repercussions of global warming and climate change, the impact of pollution in oceans and seas is what is directly faced by small island developing states (SIDS). Surrounded by water bodies, these small island states bear the brunt of all the pollution that is found in the ocean, and become witness to the tragedy that washes ashore. Even though they contribute merely 1% to the world’s existing greenhouse gas emissions, these island-nations are the first to experience the true wrath of nature with most devastating results of climate change in the form of cyclonic storms and floods, which essentially stagnate the economy and destroy the livelihoods of the people living there.
However, despite the threat of sea-level rise that constantly looms, the exponentially risky economies, livelihoods and food security, the SIDS continues to be at the forefront of taking responsibility when it comes to areas of climatic crisis, sustainable development and disaster risk reduction and preparedness.
The heatwaves, owing to the global warming phenomenon, have managed to be the reason behind depleting coral reefs, which hugely affects the aquatic ecosystem. Rising sea-levels flood homes, destroy livelihood and boats of fishermen and play huge role in increasing the salinity of the soil, thus making soil health insufficient to support farming. Understanding the gravity of the situation, island nations that are a part of SIDS and Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) such as Seychelles, Maldives and Singapore, among others, have all taken up the responsibility of controlling pollution and regulating plastic usage so as to not harm ocean and sea bodies.
The President of Seychelles has laid emphasis on protection of ocean and marine life, insisting that everyone has an equal responsibility in it, and that pollution can also be reduced when there is a collective effort.
Highlighting the importance of oceans, The President added that they are the largest active carbon sink on Earth and absorb more than 25% of the carbon dioxide that is produced in the atmosphere. Seychelles is taking huge leaps when it comes to ensuring protection of oceans and marine resources, by bringing into action its Blue Economy plan, which states the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth and improved livelihoods for people, while keeping in mind the priority of a healthy oceanic ecosystem. The tiny island on the west of Indian Ocean has also designated 26% of its territorial waters as marine protection areas, in order to sustainably harness vast ocean resources and avoid overuse and exploitation of marine resources.
Maldives is known for its pristine waters and picturesque views, but what many not see is the overburdening plastic pollution that is hampering the clear waters of the island nation in the Indian Ocean. The island nation, also known for its reefs and corals, is now under impending doom, due to the growing heat of the water’s surface temperature which is causing bleaching of these corals, and further, stressing the oceanic health. On an average, 500 tonnes of garbage is produced everyday in Maldives, with most of it being water-borne, which is being managed by the waste-processing plant on the island of Thilafushi; but the influx of floating plastic, bottles and bags is causing overburdening of the plant, thus reducing in efficiency.
The Maldivian government took to immediate action and sought an ambitious plan to fight the plastic pollution by utilising the islands’ 1200 fishing boats and fishermen, who’d sweep the plastic rubbish from the sea when they fish and bring it back to the capital, Male, from where it will be transferred for recycling into plastic-based fabrics. Not only this, a 400% tax has been imposed on plastic bags which has managed to make many parts of the island absolutely plastic-free, which is gradually spreading through the island.
Known for its expansive beaches and diverse marine life, The Bahamas is another island nation which has been dedicatedly addressing the cause of pollution found in the ocean. For the sake of conserving its beauty, The Bahamas has taken initiative to protect its marine resources and gather a sustainable approach in conservation of these resources. The Bahamian government is committed to protect, at least, 20% of its near-shore marine environment by the year 2020, out of which it has already managed to conserve 10%, ensuring that over 13 million acres are protected. Along with this, Bahamian government is making efforts to strengthen public awareness and responsibility when it comes to marine –protected areas of the Island.
Therefore, it is important to underline and appreciate the efforts undertaken by the governments of these small island nations when it comes to addressing the problems of ocean pollution and reduced plastic usage. Their initiatives to tackle this cause and protect oceanic ecosystem and maintain marine health is an inspirational step for all the countries to take notes from, so as to establish the fact that environment pollution, climate change and plastic usage are the present-day evils that, not only need to be solved, but absolutely wiped off the face of earth for the sake of sustainability.
By devising useful policies, important bans and required regulations, these island nations have become a force to reckon with, especially serving as leaders for guiding the developing countries out of the climatic crisis.