MARINE POLLUTION DECELERATING GDP GROWTH

TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI (tariqsaeedi@hotmail.com)
Sep 22 - 28, 2008

Considering economic and ecological benefits one can leverage out of vibrant management of marine resources of Pakistan, it is evident that let alone full commercial windfalls that can be gained through preventing erosion of biodiversity, inefficiency-driven environmental degradation of shorelines and marine mass is causing substantial loss to GDP by deterring optimal exploitation of resources, along with, eliminating precious saline water resources with every passing day.

One of the World Bank strategic environment assessment reports warned that degradation of Pakistan's natural resource base and high burden of diseases were costing the country at least 6 percent of GDP or about US$ 6 billion annually.

Pakistan has bestowed with abundance of marine and fresh water species. In addition, it has been blessed with concurrent coastline surroundings favorable to proliferation of flora and fauna. However, sheer negligence towards harnessing gifts of nature is clearly closing this lucrative economy near to debacle. Like potential of revenue in fishery sector is huge, maintaining ecological balance and minimizing level of pollution at long-ranged national coastal belt will too have positive economic ramifications and scale indirect cost incurred on public health services down.

People associating with fishery sector in Pakistan depend on coast, ponds, water bodies, rivers, lakes for their livelihood. The sector of inland and marine fishing has not so far evolved into modern and formalized commercial ventures and lagged behind in progress of imitable international models in its buildup. Since marine fisheries constitute 79 percent of country total fish catch robust performance of overall fishing economy has direct link to quality of coast areas.

MARINE POLLUTANTS

Combined with mismanagement by authorities, man-made activities are primarily attributed to decaying conditions of quaysides and seawaters. Floating filth on the surface of water mass at public beaches is considered as a key driver of pollution. This does not only spoil the beauty of shorelines, it also invokes

disaster in long term. Usually municipal, industrial wastes are drained into seawater prior to pass through treatment process, vastly rendering degradation of marine environment. Since such waste is not biodegradable, it results into irrevocable loss to flora and fauna. According to an estimate, over 60 percent of wastewater reaches sea in Karachi without treatment. Government has taken concrete steps to install water and effluent treatment plants, but the volume of waste requires unshared attention and sizeable investments. Organic pollution spurred with non-biodegradable substances in wastes too presents impending risks to budding marine species in creeks. Agriculture runoff is another serious threat to coast resources as it composes of pesticides and lethal dirt which do not compost.

Dredgers used to dredge slits developed after porting in and out of ships are common in sight at harbors. Apparently, no activity is carried forward dutifully and regularly to sweep away rubbish as shining blots of oil spill and score of filths are conspicuous on water surface. Small fishing boats and passenger ferries easily escape the surveillance of marine guards entrusted to enforce standardized operation of boats inter alia. Usually, small boats mostly which are in rundown conditions seep out oil spills in water, putting into danger lives of water folks. Often, passenger ferries get involved in commercial fishing illegally. Using of harmful fishing nets lying in water continuously clasp species for long and increase their death toll. As a result, dead fish becomes obnoxious and begets pollution.

At international forums, strategies to control catch of juvenile fishes are hotly under discussions. Since Pakistan is one of the countries where fishing is aggressively taken ahead and budding fishes are under attack of indiscriminate, unfettered catch, halting juvenile fish catch as well as over-fishing should be planned to conserve biodiversity. Pakistan's marine has breeding ground for unique and commercially viable genres such as tuna, hilsa, sardines, crabs, shrimps, which earn country huge exporting revenue. In last fiscal year, sea food exports had receipts of $202 million while in FY07 the amount was $190 million and in FY06 $180 million. Despite EU ban over fish exports from the country, increase in export revenue is commendable. Government official said biggest hurdle in meeting EU standard was unhygienic conditions of boats.

Concurrently, unhygienic conditions of shelters in use for fish processing discourage exports. The fishermen working places are in a quite bad shape, lacking in basic amenities. Over a period of time, fishermen adopt decades or century old traditions of fishing due to reluctance of government in introducing transformation. They still gather fishes to dry out in an open sky, inviting attacks of parasites and diseases on debris harmful to human health. Yet they have been enduring all these knowingly or unknowingly.

Waste discharge in seawaters can not only bring decline in fish yields, it also makes lively species vulnerable to viral infections. Consequently, consumption of such contaminated seafood may cause kidney failure, anemia, and brain damage according to Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum.

A report says that nearly 50 percent of the environmental damage cost in Pakistan is attributed to illness and premature mortality by pollution. Water born diseases caused by hygiene, sanitation, water supply cost country 1.8 percent of GDP.

Depletion of mangroves has also immersing consequence for the marine environment, particularly biodiversity. Mangroves are used to be nursery and breeding abode to variety of water species especially juvenile fishes. They can ward off energy of tidal waves stirred by cyclones to a lager extent. Degradation of marine ecosystem and its causative forces are warning that they can debilitate biodiversity and trim export revenue if not taken into consideration immediately.