UN Report on Impact of Plastic Pollution
Why in News?
- According to a UN report, Migratory Species are most Vulnerable to Plastic Pollution.
Key Findings of the Report
- The report released by the United Nations Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), focused for the first time on the impacts of plastic pollution on animals, birds, and aquatic beings in the Asia-Pacific region.
- Plastic pollution poses a major threat to migratory species that dwell on land and in freshwater habitats, especially in the Asia-Pacific region.
- The study focussed on the Ganges and Mekong river basins, which together contribute an estimated 200,000 tonnes of plastic pollution to the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean every year.
- It showed that pollution from plastics increases the vulnerability of already endangered species such as Gangetic and Irrawaddy dolphins, Asian elephants, and Black-footed Albatrosses.
- Plastic pollution can also impact other migratory and resident species that live in freshwater environments including fish, through entanglement as well as through the ingestion of microplastics that can in turn impact species of the food web.
- The study found that species protected under the CMS are impacted by plastic pollution in river ecosystems and on land, including freshwater species, land animals, and birds and especially air-breathing freshwater mammals are particularly at risk from plastic pollution.
- The report found that migratory species are likely among the most vulnerable to plastic pollution.
- With nearly 500 species, birds represent over 80% of the CMS-listed species in the Asia-Pacific region and there is significant evidence for bird interaction with plastics.
- The report pointed out that discarded fishing gear and kite strings are among the major threats especially for the aquatic species and also for mammals and birds which encounter these discarded materials on land.
- According to a recent study, by 2030 up to 53 million metric tonnes of plastics could enter aquatic ecosystems annually, and if no improved measures are taken, this figure could reach 90 million tonnes annually meaning global environmental contamination is likely to continue to increase dramatically.
Key Species Vulnerable to Plastic Pollution
- With an estimated 3,500 individuals remaining in the wild, the Gangetic dolphins were recently rated as the second-most vulnerable species at risk of entanglement and negative effects from discarded fishing gear in the Ganga river.
- In the Mekong delta, the drowning of Irrawaddy dolphins, estimated to be less than 100, owing to entanglement in nets is rampant
- Both these species of dolphin are classified as ‘endangered’ on the IUCN Red List.
- Dugong, another marine mammal protected by the CMS in the Asia-Pacific region, is often seen to drown after getting entangled in fishing nets or ingesting microplastics, with India and Thailand contributing to most of their deaths.
- Protected under CMS since the 13th Conference of the Parties in 2020, the Asian Elephant has been observed scavenging on rubbish dumps in Sri Lanka and ingesting plastic in Thailand.
- Migratory seabirds, such as Black-footed Albatrosses and Laysan Albatrosses, may not be able to tell plastic from prey when flying over the ocean and can accidentally eat floating debris.
- Migratory birds such as the Black-faced Spoonbill and the Osprey have been observed making nests out of plastics.
- The Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), also known as the Bonn Convention, is an environmental treaty of the United Nations that provides a global platform for the conservation and sustainable use of migratory animals and their habitats.
- CMS brings together the States through which migratory animals pass, the Range States, and lays the legal foundation for internationally coordinated conservation measures throughout a migratory range.
- As the only global convention specializing in the conservation of migratory species, their habitats and migration routes , CMS complements and co-operates with a number of other international organizations, NGOs and partners in the media as well as in the corporate sector.
- Migratory species threatened with extinction are listed on Appendix I of the Convention.
- India has been a party to the CMS since 1983.
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