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Coastal Urbanisation Turning Oceans Into Garbage Dumps Says UN

Down the drain and into the ocean...
by Staff Writers
The Hague (AFP) Oct 04, 2006
The rapid urbanisation of coastal lands is turning the worlds seas into garbage dumps, a UN report warned Wednesday, calling for urgent funds to tackle the problem of waste water and sewage. "An estimated 80% of marine pollution originates from the land and this could rise significantly by 2050," the report of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said.

UNEP experts stressed that the problem of coastal urbanisation is mostly found in developing countries and essentially needs a financial solution.

According to the UN organisation an estimated 56 billion dollars (44 billion euros) more is needed annually to address the problem of waste water.

"It seems huge but one should also take into account the cost of health care" that could be related to marine pollution, Veerle Vandeweerd, the coordinator of the UNEP's Global Programme of Action (GPA) told a press conference here to present the report "The state of the marine environment".

"Usually the causers of pollution are not the bearers of the consequences," UNEP's executive director Achim Steiner told journalists.

The UNEP report noted "good progress is being made in being made on three of nine key indicators" like oil pollution, but also a turn in "the wrong direction" for four other indicators including dumping waste water, garbage and a related excess of nutrients in the water.

"Nutrients from sources like agriculture and animal wastes are fertilizing coastal zones, triggering toxic algal blooms and a rising number of oxygen deficient dead zones," the experts warned.

On the other hand the report welcomed the drastic reduction, by 90 percent, of oil pollution since the mid 1980s.

The experts also noted that there was a reduction in persistent organic pollutants such as pesticides and chemicals, thanks to measures taken as part of the 2001 Stockholm Convention and a reduction in radioactive substance pollution.

On a more general note the experts noted that almost 40 percent of the world population lives on a narrow coastal band that takes up only 6.7 percent of the earth's surface and depend on natural resources. The population density in the coastal region which was 77 people per square kilometer in 1990 could go up to 115 people per square kilometer in 2025, UNEP warned.

UNEP said it feared a significant rise in marine pollution originating from the land by 2050.

"There is a rising concern over the increasing damage and destruction of essential and economically important coastal ecosystems like mangroves forests, coral reefs, sea grass beds" that often serve as fish nurseries. Ninety percent of coral reefs in Southeastern Asia is being threatened by human activities, UNEP said.

The UN environmental body saw mixed results with respect to heavy metals and sedimentation in coastal zones.

For heavy metals, like mercury, cadmium and lead used in industrial and mining activities "the environmental and health effect of these metals are not well known", the report warned.

The report will be sent to about 100 countries expected to participate in a UNEP conference in Beijing on the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of Marine Environment.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Tonnes Of Garbage Dumped, Thousands Get Lost On Tiananmen Square
Beijing (AFP) Oct 04, 2006
Chaos has erupted on Beijing's Tiananmen Square during this week's National Day vacation, as mountains of garbage have been dumped and thousands of visitors have got lost, state media said Wednesday. Tourists to the world-famous square in the heart of the capital have disposed of a massive 40 tonnes of trash every day since the start of the week-long National Day vacation on Sunday, Xinhua news agency reported.

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