Ineffective waste disposal threatens Ganges wildlife

Chennai: The Ganges river is yet again in danger- this time, it is its wildlife that has been threatened.

A study, published in the journal, Science of The Total Environment, that surveyed along the length of the river, from the mouth in Bangladesh to the Himalayas in India, shows levels of waste fishing gear are highest near to the sea.

The resulting plastic pollution from the discarded fishing gear is a threat to the critically endangered three-striped roofed turtle and the dolphin, according to an international team including researchers from the Wildlife Institute of India.

Probing into the reasons for such high levels of pollution, the study found that the fishing equipment is being disposed into the river, mostly due to short gear lifespans and lack of appropriate disposal systems.

“The Ganges River supports some of the world’s largest inland fisheries, but no research has been done to assess plastic pollution from this industry, and its impacts on wildlife”, said Sarah Nelms from the University of Exeter in the UK, adding, “Ingesting plastic can harm wildlife, but our threat assessment focussed on entanglement, which is known to injure and kill a wide range of marine species”.

“There is no system for fishers to recycle their nets. Most fishers told us they mend and repurpose nets if they can, but if they can’t do that the nets are often discarded in the river. Many also held the view that the river ‘cleans it away’, so one useful step would be to raise awareness of the real environmental impacts”, she noted.

 

NT Bureau