With time the human race has seen new heights of development in science and technology. But with each new step towards development and advancement in technologies, humans have been ignoring and damaging the environment and the nature in which they live in. The degradation can be easily observed by the increasing pollution of air, water and land, which is also leading to the extinction of many living species of plants and animals.
In recent times it has been observed that the water bodies like rivers, seas and oceans are getting polluted bat higher due to the disposal of the waste generated by human activities. One such case is of the great pacific gyre garbage patch. Also known by the name Pacific trash vortex, it is a gyre of marine debris particles in the North Pacific Ocean. It was described in a paper published in 1988 by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Not surprisingly, such patches have been discovered recently in the South Pacific Ocean also by a team of researchers led by Captain Charles Moore, founder of Algalita Research Foundation. The actual discovery of the North Pacific Gyre garbage patch was done by Moore himself in 1999.
The North Pacific gyre garbage patch is comprised of the Western Garbage Patch, located near Japan, and the Eastern Garbage Patch, located between the U.S. states of Hawaii and California. These patches contain a high concentration of pelagic plastic, chemical sludge and other debris. These are formed by swirling mix of currents and wind called gyre. The area in the center of a gyre tends to be very calm and stable. The circular motion of the gyre draws debris into this stable center, where it becomes trapped.
The plastics found in these regions are not in any solid form. They are floating bits of very small pieces of plastics tinier than grains of rice, concentrated in large numbers. Due to this fact, the term ‘Garbage Patch’ can be misleading as many may refer it to islands of trash in the parts of oceanS. When plastic is willingly or unwillingly is disposed into the ocean it breaks through many processes, mainly by photodegradation, as it travels through the ocean water. The North Pacific Garbage Patch covers up to 15million square km area in the ocean, while the South Patch covers about 2.6million square km area.
The actual quantity of marine debris in the garbage patch of the Pacific Ocean is not known. Due to the size and quantity of the floating microplastics, it is very much difficult for the scientists to measure the actual amount of debris in the ocean. As per Oceanographers and ecologists, a major portion of the debris may be at the bottom of the ocean. As per reports of Environmental Protection Agency, major parts of this debris is due to the improper disposal of wastes and management of trash. Majority of the plastics are generated and used on land and the wastes generated by their use are improperly disposed of which gets washed away in oceans.
The marine life is at high risk due to the accumulation of such garbage patches in large areas of the ocean. These non-degradable microparticles of plastics may end up in the stomach of Turtles, Fish, Seals and other aquatic mammals. Also, about all of the 1.5 million Laysan albatrosses that inhabit Midway are likely to have these plastics in their stomach. Along with this, the food producers or the autotrophs of the ocean like algae and plankton will be mainly affected by the sunlight reaching them will be blocked. The threatening of algae and planktons will lead to disturb in the entire food web and hence will cause an imbalance in the aquatic ecosystem which will also disturb the land ecosystem.
Actions are being taken by some individuals and organizations to deal with this highly threatening issue. Groups like Algalita Research Foundation and Environmental Cleanup Coalition (ECC) are addressing the issue of Pacific pollution. Similarly, many other groups and individuals are taking actions to deal with the issue. The problem is big because a disturbance in sea life will put a great impact on the land life and hence the human race. The problem was created by us hence every individual should try to take possible actions to reduce this problem. There should be a proper and separate disposal of biodegradable and non-biodegradable wastes. Every individual should be aware enough to not litter wastes in his surroundings. The non-biodegradable wastes should not be dumped near seashores and other water bodies. They can be buried in barren pieces of land around which no irrigational activities or plantation is being done so that the soil fertility will also be not affected.
It is the time that each one of us must act. Else one day we will end up reciting the lines- “Water water everywhere not a drop to drink”.