SACEP is an intergovernmental organization established in 1982 in South Asia to promote and support the protection, management and enhancement of the environment in the region including the Seas in and around the South Asian archipelago. Its members include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Since its inception, SACEP has helped in monitoring and guiding the respective national environment programmes in these countries through cooperation in the areas of “environment education, environment legislation, biodiversity, air pollution, promoting Sustainable Consumption and Production, Waste Management, Climate Change and the protection & management of the coastal environment”. Following the United Nations Environment Programme Initiative called the ‘Regional Seas Programme’, the SACEP is acting as the Secretariat of South Asian Seas for the five maritime states of Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
South Asia is one of the fastest- growing regions in the world. Given that the Indian Ocean Region along with the straits around the Indian archipelago is seeing extensive economic development, shipping and marine exploitation; the SACEP with the Regional Seas initiative of the UNEP inherently has a lot on its plate.
Apart from the environmental challenges arising on the mainland, the rising wastes dumped into the rivers and seas have remained a big problem in South Asia. Some of the activities that have been implemented by the SACEP in the recent years to support the marine ecosystem in South Asia include the Regional Litter Action Plan, Regional Marine and Coastal Biodiversity Strategy, etc.
The SACEP governing council in 2019 decided to initiate a 50 million dollars programme called the Plastic Free Rivers and Seas programme for South Asia along with Parley for the Oceans Foundation and World Bank. The programme has three components namely ‘Supporting Competitive Block Grant Investments to Reduce Plastic Waste,’ ‘Leveraging Public and Private Sector Engagement and Solutions,’ and ‘Strengthening Regional Integration Institutions.’ It will strengthen the actions with the circular economy solutions to plastic pollution flowing into the Indian Ocean.
With the cooperation of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), SACEP launched activities including Regional Workshop on the Ballast Water Management, Risk Assessment and Port Biological Baseline Surveys helping the regional administrations to ratify and implement the Ballast Water Management Convention.
SACEP also joined as the regional coordinator for the Glofouling Project of the IMO which tackles the rising trend of Biofouling that involves the attachment of living organisms to artificial surfaces that presents a threat to Marine ecology. Invasive Species transported through ship hulls , for example, can cause ecological disruption in other parts of the sea.
Oil spills in the waters around the South Asian States are already rising. Catastrophic spillage off the coast of Sri Lanka which is a major trans-shipment hub was seen in 2021 and 2020. In 2020, the request for assistance during the spillage was conveyed to the Indian government by the Sri Lankan government through the SACEP which oversaw the cooperation.
The importance of SACEP can’t be overstated given the fact that the Gulf of Mannar, the Maldivian islands, the Lankan and Kerala coasts, and the Laccadive seas are dotted with atolls, pristine beaches, corals, and diversity worth saving. To protect the marine rainforests or coral ecosystem, the SACEP is involved in the “Sustainable Nitrogen Management’ that checks the anthropogenic pollution with partnership of South Asian States.
In addition, South Asia Cooperative Environment Programme is also involved in reducing the Greenhouse gasses, air pollution, land pollution, etc. The role played by SACEP in marine cooperation between the South Asian States is extremely important in the Indian Ocean Region, the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.
Photo Credit : sacep.org