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The Solution to Pollution is Revolution

The saying actually goes,

The solution to pollution is dilution.

For many years, this rule was blindly followed when there was a lack of research on this subject. At the time, dumping waste into the local rivers seemed feasible because garbage was carried out elsewhere, reinforcing the “Not In My Backyard (NIMBY)” mentality. Thanks to the development of modern science, this theory was quickly debunked proving dilution is not always the answer (cue in bioaccumulation).

In recent times, there are a growing number of cases which identify the impact of pollution on the environment but I want to focus on aquatic life for the purposes of this post. Pollution in waterways can come in several forms such as physical waste which includes the remnants of household trash, industrial goop or even the illicit drug trade for that matter (more on that later). This is a global concern which demands urgent change before we lose anymore aquatic biodiversity.

Our rivers are dying

Pollution observed at the rivers in Pune, India.
Pollution observed at the rivers in Pune, India.

Unfortunately, humans have already committed a fair share of irreversible damage but it is not too late to make efforts towards conservation. Take the rivers, Mulu-Mutha in Pune, India for example. Since the rivers were surveyed in 1942, there has been a significant decrease in the fish population contributed by pollution. In just over 75 years, only 8 fish species can be found today from the initial 120 when the survey was originally completed. This drastic 93% decline in fish species can be observed through the water conditions of the rivers. In a case report on the freshwater fish fauna of these rivers, it identifies the dense population of tubificid worms and chironomid larvae discovere – bioindicators of sewage pollution. In addition to raw sewage, other factors which threaten fish diversity in this area include industrial pollution, decaying organic matter and bubbles of gas such as methane. These are human related or human produced discharges and it further proves the direct correlation of the impact we play on our surrounding environment. SS Kharat, an ichthyologist (read: fish expert) who studied this case said, we need to take the necessary steps to restore these species at risk and I could not agree more. I will add that to our Revolution on Pollution checklist.

Another one bites the ….trash?

Plastic content found inside of a green sea turtle's stomach in Thailand.
Plastic content found inside of a green sea turtle’s stomach in Thailand.

Moving over to Southeast Asia, the revolution is beginning as many have gathered to safeguard the nesting areas of endangered turtles through cleanups and lobbying for better environmental protection. Green sea turtles are struggling to nest or even survive because their environment does not foster prosperous living conditions. They are fighting a losing battle against plastic pollution because their digestive systems were not made to match the human crafted debris which they confuse for food. Aquatic animals mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and other sustenance and consume them which accumulate in their body eventually causing indigestion and unable to eat suitable food. Hong Kong’s Lamma Island is home to these green sea turtles but with increased litter all over the bay, green sea turtles struggle to find nesting areas which in turn discourages reproduction.

Debris floating in aquatic habitats.

Turtles are not the only victims of concentrated plastic waste. In recent news, necropsy results on a whale in Thailand identified 80 plastic bags discovered within its body. Knowingly, we dump our waste into the oceans by the millions (tonnes) each year though examples such as these clearly indicate it is not a sustainable waste management solution. Though we are on the right track with volunteers urging the government to take more action to protect wildlife, the onus still rests on each and every one of us. We need to be more mindful of our lifestyles and the waste we generate because it bears consequences on this planet and every living thing in it.

An appeal to save the eel

Another factor affecting biodiversity in aquatic environments is the use of illicit drugs, though this may not come to mind immediately when we think of water pollution. However, when we dwell on it, it makes sense and it is easy to understand why it is overlooked. Recently in the United Kingdom, they conducted research on the effects of cocaine on eels, particularly European Eels. Initially, these eels appeared to maintain the general health of sober eels but shortly after, their vulnerable conditions were seen in muscle swelling. As an European eel, this is not the most ideal of situations because they spawn far from home and this journey is way too challenging when their biological composition is altered by the drugs they ingest which are leaked into waterways they call home. Now I understand that creating a campaign to raise awareness on the effects of drug use (in regards to the environment) is senseless but the bigger picture here is that we directly and indirectly affect other creatures purely based on the decisions we make every single day.

European eels are being impacted by the drug pollution in their water.
European eels are being impacted by the drug pollution in their water.

Even putting cocaine aside, these eels (amongst other aquatic creatures) are exposed to hazards such as heavy metals and pesticides which leach into the ground, eventually finding their way into the water streams. The answer to this problem can be as simple as implementing a multi-tiered water treatment system which ensures water is completely rid of any traces of harmful contaminants. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done, as such technology would require immense funding. Similar such treatment can be found in medical institutions which produce more toxic concentrated wastes. Until we can afford to have these systems in place (and after), we need to monitor what we pour down the drain or else it won’t be long before we see these species on an extinct list. Reporting household chemicals to hazardous waste facilities is not only economical (free!) but they dispose of them carefully, preventing groundwater contamination. Though it is an extra chore, I hope you will do it for the doped up eels that deserve better.

“No.”

The way I see it, this revolution is a peaceful protest; boycotting practices, products and services heedless of their environmental impact. A pervasive movement where we make conscious lifestyle decisions which factor in the ramifications of our actions. An uprising where we say “No” and voice concern for sustainable consumer goods. We need to demand for stronger legislation and policies which protect our natural resources more than it protects the industrial hegemony to get away with committing crimes against Mother Nature. As individuals sharing this planet with innumerable species, we have a moral responsibility to treat our mutual home kindly so all living things can thrive to their best potential. So I leave you with the question: What will you do today to help save our planet? 🙂


References

Deshpande, S. (2018, June 27). How fresh water fish species in Pune rivers are being ‘murdered’ by effluents. Retrieved from https://www.hindustantimes.com/pune-news/how-fresh-water-fish-species-in-pune-rivers-are-being-murdered-by-effluents/story-9k4W78AoDpOSU82VFgAznK.html

K. Wagh, G & Ghate, Hemant. (2003). Freshwater fish fauna of the rivers Mula and Mutha, Pune, Maharashtra. Zoos’ Print Journal. 18. 10.11609/JoTT.ZPJ.18.1.977-89.

Knott, K. (2018, June 26). Actors and activists fight to save Hong Kong’s endangered turtles. Retrieved from http://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/article/2152477/actors-and-activists-fight-endangered-green-sea-turtles-nesting-site-hong

Learn, J. R. (2018, June 20). Some Rivers Are So Drug-Polluted, Their Eels Get High on Cocaine. Retrieved from https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/06/european-eels-on-cocaine-polluted-rivers-science-environment-animals/

Wright, P. (2018, June 12). Sea Turtle Starves to Death After Ingesting Massive Amounts of Plastics, Other Debris. Retrieved from https://weather.com/science/environment/news/2018-06-12-thailand-sea-turtle-starves-plastics

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