Udayavni Special

Study finds Ganga full of micro-plastics causing toxicity for environment

Team Udayavani, Jul 24, 2021, 9:48 AM IST

Source: The Guardian

A new study by Toxics Link found that the river Ganga is polluted with multiple kinds of plastic, with the highest concentration at Varanasi, and micro-plastics samples being found at Haridwar, Kanpur and Varanasi.

Microplastics are defined as plastics less than 5 mm in length and are recognized as a major source of marine pollution due to their persistence, ubiquity, and toxic potential.

Plastic products and waste material released or dumped in the river break down and are eventually reduced to microparticles and the river finally transports significantly large quantities downstream into the ocean which is the ultimate sink of all plastics being used by humans. “Essentially all along micro-plastics are flowing into the river system. It does reflect or suggest a direct linkage between the poor state of both solid and liquid waste management; hence it is critically important to initiate steps to remediate it,” said Priti Mahesh, Chief Coordinator at Toxics Link.

Untreated sewage from many cities along the river’s course, industrial waste, and religious offerings wrapped in non-degradable plastic add large amounts of pollutants to the river as it flows through many cities that are densely populated, Toxics Link said in a statement.

“Haridwar resulted in the lowest number of MPs/m3 (1.30±0.518) as compared to other two locations, Varanasi and Kanpur. The most frequent size range observed in all the samples was <300µm,” shared Dr. Mahua Saha, the lead researcher from NIO.

There are reports that also suggest that microplastics can pass through the filtration systems and finally land up in our bodies. Discarded plastic waste contributes to marine pollution with devastating consequences for marine life and the habitats they depend on and affects the food web due to uptake of MPs by marine organisms. More than 663 species are affected adversely due to marine debris and 11% of them are said to be related to micro-plastic ingestion alone. These micro-plastics being drained from the river system into oceans can cause serious imbalance in the marine ecosystem and food web, the release said.

Though plastic waste management rules have been in force in the country their implementation remains poor. Improving implementation of the Plastic Rules, along with enforcing a stricter ban on single-use plastics is a critical need. Also, there is a requirement for more data and research on microplastics and their impact on our river systems.

“We need to address the threat of plastic on aquatic life more realistically and with a futuristic eye. Various stakeholders, including the industry, government, civil society organizations, need to join hands for improving plastic waste management and the subsequent reduction in micro-plastic pollution”, stated Satish Sinha, Associate Director at Toxics Link.

Micro-plastic pollution in the Ganga can have many ramifications, as its water is used for various purposes which can lead to severe impact on the environment as well as human health. The river is the major source of drinking water for cities situated along its banks and micro-plastics pollution is a cause of concern.

Other key findings from the study are: Fragments were the predominant shape in all locations followed by film and fiber. A slight difference was observed in Kanpur as fibers were more abundant than films; the most frequent size range observed in all the samples was <300µm; black and brown colored particles were found to be more in number followed by colored particles in all the three locations. The dominance of black colored particles suggests its origin from the abrasion of tyres; several types of rubber (butadiene, poly-isoprene, natural rubber) were abundantly found in the river; 40 different types of polymers were found during analysis.

(Written with input from IANS)

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