Microplastics are said to be among the most harmful plastic debris found in water bodies.
According to a Delhi-based NGO Toxics Link study titled , “Quantitative analysis of Microplastics along River Ganga”, released recently shows the heavy presence of microplastics in the river which flows through five states covering about 2,500 km before merging into the Bay of Bengal.
Why are microplastics most dangerous?
Microplastics are said to be among the most harmful plastic debris found in water bodies. The reason why they are termed most harmful is because of their small size with average size of microplastics being 5 mm in length. Microplastics in water bodies not only harm humans but also are a big threat to marine species.
The study reveals that more than 663 marine species have taken the brunt of marine debris and some 11 per cent of them have also been through microplastic ingestion. Because of its (microplastics) size, it is consumed by marine species like fish, planktons, sea mammals and corals among others and then carried forward into the food chain.
Humans are equally in trouble with most of the microplastics that can be easily found in food, water and food containers and their consumption can lead to severe health consequences.
What about pollution in the famous river Ganga?
The study has revealed that the microplastics are also found in Ganga’s water. The Ganga water samples collected from Haridwar, Varanasi and Kanpur show that microplastics are found in all of them along with other kinds of harmful plastics such as single-use plastic and secondary plastics. Varanasi, however, showed the highest concentration of plastic pollution amongst others.
Densely populated cities are also doing their significant bit in adding pollutants into the river. The study states that untreated sewage, industrial waste and other religious offerings wrapped in non-degradable plastics are the major reasons for river pollution. As the river keeps flowing, so does the waste and plastic materials which break down further, eventually ending up into the Bay of Bengal. From there it goes into the ocean which is undeniably the super home of all plastics dumped by humans.
Efforts made to clean the Ganga
Efforts to clean holy river Ganga have not happened just recently. Infact efforts to clean Ganga have been going on for over 40 years now if not less than that. Most of them suggested creating sewage treatment capacities in the major urban centres along the river to help maintain cleanliness in Ganga.
The government in May 2015 approved the Namami Gange programme to clean the river and protect it as well. The programme received 100 per cent funding from the government. Here are some of the programmes launched in the past in a bid to clean the river Ganga– Ganga Action Plan (GAP) launched in 1985, the IIT Consortium for water diversion and effective treatment in 2011 and the National Mission for Clean Ganga also launched in 2011.
The Toxics Link study also revealed that these plans to address pollution caused by microplastics does help and have yielded little success as well in the past.