WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY
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Wanted! Seas and Oceans Dead or Alive?

By SHABBIR H. KAZMI
July 26 - Aug 01, 2004
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The World Environment Day observed on 5th June every year around the world, demonstrates the collective will to raise awareness around key environmental concerns. The objective is to let the masses know that if appropriate measures are not taken the very survival of life is threatened. Oceans cover more than one third of the earth's surface and support 90% of marine and aquatic life they are directly and indirectly a major lever for promotion of sustainable life on this planet. Therefore, the theme adopted for year 2004 "Wanted! Seas and Oceans Dead or Alive" is a timely reminder to wake up and realize the alarming situation and also act before it is too late.

The objective of observing Environment Day is to empower people to become active participants in sustainable and equitable development, promote an understanding that communities are pivotal to changing attitudes towards environment issues, and advocate partnership that can ensure all nations and peoples enjoy a safer and more prosperous future. The main international celebration of the World Environment Day 2004 was held in Barcelona, Spain in close collaboration with the Universal Forum of Cultures.

The world environment has deteriorated as a whole for the obvious reasons of development and industrialization and seas and oceans are the worst hit. The reason being the international image of seas and oceans as infinite receptacles for waste, which can be dumped with any type of waste in whatever quantity desired. These gifts of nature have never been considered as a valuable resource holding varieties of life treasures of mineral resources. The oceans affect and sustain all life on earth. They drive and moderate weather and climate, provide food, transportation corridors, recreational opportunities and also serve as national security buffers. Pollution, depletion of aqua life, destruction and degradation and the introduction of invasive non-native species are just some of the ways people harm oceans, with serious consequences for the entire planet.

The world's seas and oceans are becoming increasingly tainted by untreated wastewater, industrial effluent and silt from inadequately managed watercourses. Nitrogen overload from fertilizers is creating a growing number of oxygen-starved "dead zones" in the coastal waters around the globe. Marine litter is killing up to a million seabirds and hundred thousand sea mammals and turtles each year. With more than 40% of the human population already living within 60 kilometres of a coast, and the proportion growing, these problems are likely only to increase. Moreover, despite the growing reach and intensity of commercial fishing operations, total global fish catch is declining. Nearly three quarters of world fish stock are being harvested faster than they can reproduce.

 

 

In his message for the Day, Mir Zafaruallh Khan Jamali, Prime Minister has said, "The Government of Pakistan is fully committed to our sea waters and marine life and has demonstrated this resolve through various policy interventions. However, our financial constraints oblige us to limit such actions in terms of scope, timing and impact and highlight the need for collaboration on the part of the private sector and civil society to the stated goals".

Prime Minister may be right that the country has limited resources, but it is also a fact that the various departments suffer from capabilities to implement the basics. These actions do not require funds but certainly demand firm commitment and appropriate planning and implementation. The economic must realize the importance of marine life and more than 900 kilometres of coastal belt. It is appropriate to highlight the indiscriminate discharge of sewerage and industrial effluent in river Indus. The river Indus is the largest source of potable water as well as irrigation but it is being further polluted by constant influx of saline water from waterlogged areas.

It is also important to highlight the discharge of polluted water from Manchar Lake into river Indus. Which caused loss of dozens of life in and around Hyderabad. Once upon a time Manchar Lake was among some of the largest fresh water lakes of the world but it has been reduced to a pond full of toxic water. The Sindh delta also suffers from serious ecological threats. The government had initiated a programme to save green turtles in the past but seems to be least bothered about saving precious human life. People living between Kotri Barrage and Karachi are being supplied untreated water, which is not even fit for irrigation.