Plastic waste polluting our rivers

[ Junroi Mamai ]
The World Environment Day celebration on 5 June this year was hosted by India this year. With this year’s theme being ‘Ban plastic pollution’, the United Nations Environment Organization has urged the world’s governments, industries, communities and individuals to come together and explore sustainable alternatives and urgently reduce the production and excessive use of single-use plastic that pollute the oceans, damage marine life, and threaten human health.
As per statistics, the world uses 500 billion plastic bags each year, and at least 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans – which could mean that a full garbage truck is dumped into the ocean every minute. It is also reported that 50 percent of the plastic we use is single-use or disposable. About one million plastic is bought every minute and it makes up 10 percent of all the waste we create.
Plastic bag pollution is a major threat to both marine and land animals. The animals often consume plastic bags and die a slow and painful death. These easily available bags have also polluted our rivers and streams and choked the life out of the already diminishing aquatic life. Unfortunately, despite so many campaigns and awareness against the use of polythene bags, the problem of plastic pollution persists and shows no sign of decrease.
We do not have to look far, for all our roads and streams and rivers are filled with it. Without a moment’s hesitation we chuck all our garbage covered in a polythene bag into the river or out into the street. These bags end up into the bodies of animals, with often fatal consequences.
We have also been witness to the slow degradation of many beautiful streams in our twin capital cities, which have slowly turned into foul-smelling flowing garbage dumps. Heaps and heaps are thrown into these streams that ultimately drift into the river. What we do not realize is that the huge amount of garbage we regularly dump into these streams and rivers has caused irreparable damage to the ecosystem. Rivers are our lifeline; we cannot choose to ignore its rapidly increasing pollution rate.
Since synthetic plastic does not biodegrade, there is an urgent need to reduce its use, if not completely stop it, besides encouraging regular recycling. Research shows that, though invisible to the naked eye, microscopic plastic particles are present in the air at various locations throughout the world and oceans. It is time we encouraged strong public interest and participation and took ownership of our environment.