ODISHA COASTAL ECOSYSTEMS HIGHLY DISTURBED
The World Oceans Day, held every June 8, is the United Nations-recognized day of ocean celebration and action. The day is celebrated to raise awareness of the plight of oceans and the marine ecosystems they contain. This year, the theme is ‘Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet.’
The ocean is absorbing too much heat and carbon dioxide, making it warmer and more acidic. Scientific evidence shows that the impact of human activities, including industrial and agricultural waste, Green House Gas emissions (GMG), and coastal development are seriously affecting the health of our ocean.
Forty per cent of our global oceans are heavily affected by human activities. The trend of biodiversity loss is accelerating on a global scale. Coastal habitats are under pressure, with approximately 20 per cent of the world’s coral reefs lost and another 20 per cent degraded. Mangroves have been reduced from 30 per cent to 50 per cent of their historical cover, impacting biodiversity, habitat for inshore fisheries, and carbon sequestration potential. 29 per cent of sea grass habitats are estimated to have disappeared. Ocean acidification is one of the most serious threats being faced by marine ecosystems today.
These changes are impairing the ocean’s capacity to provide food, protect livelihoods, maintain clean water, recover from environmental stresses like severe storms and absorb carbon from the atmosphere. These factors endanger the survival of hundreds of millions of people and impede the efforts of the international community to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Sea-level rise from climate change is projected to lead to coastal erosion and flooding, resulting in the loss of habitat and livelihood for millions of people. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), many millions more people are projected to be affected by floods every year due to sea-level rise by the 2080s.
20 years ago at the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), the scientific community recognised the need for international coordination of this vast enterprise to improve the quality of services, increase efficiency and provide international access to the global treasure trove of ocean information. The Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), co-sponsored by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Council for Science (ICSU), served this role for 20 years, acting on behalf of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as the ocean component of the Global Climate Observing System and providing the foundation of data for the future UN Global Marine Assessments.
Ocean health and benefits can be accessed by the ocean health index (OHI). The OHI was developed with the contributions of more than 65 ocean experts. It is the first assessment tool that scientifically compares and combines key elements from all dimensions of the ocean’s health. As per OHI 2014, the overall score of the Oceans of the World stands at 67 out of 100. In India the ocean health index overall score is 64 and the country ranks 139 among 221 Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs).
India has a coastline of 7,500 km and 2,000 km wide exclusive economic zone. The coastline supports almost 30 per cent of its human population. The Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea are rich fishing grounds.
Successful management of the sea coast and its ecological development depends upon scientific exploration and exploitation of the living and non-living resources in coastal waters. In order to conserve resources by controlling their depletion and regulate development activities, the Government of India had enacted the Environmental (protection) Act 1986. Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification 1991 was issued under section-3(i) and section 3(ii) (v) of the Environment (Protection) Act. Under this notification, the coastal stretches from High Tide Line to 500m towards land and from High Tide Line to Low Tide Line towards sea are identified as coastal regulation zone (CRZ). Through this notification, the coastline of the country has been declared as ecologically sensitive area, requiring regulation of development activities. The Coastal Regulation Zone Rules, 1991 has led to setting of a number of standards for discharge of effluents in the coastal water and controlling activities within 500 m of High Tide Line.
Odisha has a coastline of 480 km. Uses of the coastline are generally considered under four categories such as resource exploitation; tourism and recreation; and the conservation and protection of biodiversity. The coastal ecosystems are now highly disturbed and very much threatened, encountering problems like pollution, siltation, erosion, flooding, storm surges, uncontrolled coastal development and other activities due to ever expanding human settlements. The major issues related to the coastal and marine resource management in the State are coastal pollution, encroachment coastal lands and over exploitation of coastal resources. Coastal pollution is gradually emerging as an important issue in the State. Domestic wastes, industrial wastes, fertilizers and pesticide residues reach coastal waters through rivers, creeks etc. This, in turn, leads to coastal pollution.
The Government of India has constituted the National Coastal Zone Management Authority. The authority has the responsibility for taking measures for protecting and improving the quality of the coastal environment and preventing, abating and controlling environmental pollution in coastal areas. At the State level, Odisha Coastal Zone Management Authority has been constituted. The primary responsibility of the authority is to take adequate measures for protecting and improving the quality of the coastal environment.
Despite the huge challenges facing the world’s ocean, we can achieve a healthy ocean by our collective effort. Effective ocean stewardship requires the participation of all members of society in defining a common ocean future and in promoting behavioural change towards the ocean. To survive and prosper, we all need healthy oceans. Therefore it is important to raise awareness about the problems our ocean is facing today and protect our ocean for future.