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Plastics in the ocean


In July 2018, I was on assignment at the coastal city of Mombasa. Typical of ‘watu wa bara’ (coastal reference for people from other parts of Kenya), my biggest excitement was the ocean and so every evening after work, I would dash to enjoy the scenic views of coastal line. For many people from the inland, like me, swimming is first priority while for the daring few, speeding the boats deep into the ocean is their way of fun. Others choose to sit meditatively on the dhow and let the water glide them away.

As I walked along the beach, I could not help but remember my first experience at the beach, over 10 years ago. I remember marveling at how crisp clear the ocean water was. I could pick pieces of coral, white stones and see the white sand underneath. However, that has since changed. The water is no longer crisp-clear; it has a brownish colour and has pieces of objects floating on it.

The following day, early in the morning, as I shoot sunrise pictures, I meet a lady carrying a plastic litter bag and is wearing a reflective jacket emblazoned “Beach Management Crew,” I ask her why the water is no longer crisp clear. She points at what she has collected and answers; “this is what is poisoning this ocean.” She has collected hundreds of plastic paper bags, plastic bottles, slippers, pieces of tires, broken cell phones, pieces of clothes, copper wires among other things. She has filled five large one-by-one metres bags with waste she has collected along the beach, a distance of 300metres. Her colleagues are scattered on the other side. Every morning, she reports to this beach to repeat the same thing as the water keeps spewing the litter.

Human callousness

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) plastic waste is one of the biggest threats to the world’s oceans. Global plastic production reached more than 300 million tonnes in 2014 and much of that has ended up in the oceans, where it harms wildlife, damages marine ecosystems and causes adverse impact to human health. It is indeed a global problem.

UNEP notes that marine litter is a complex cultural and multi-sectoral problem that exacts tremendous ecological, economic, and social costs around the globe.  It creates negative impacts to the economy as it affects sectors including tourism, fisheries and aquaculture, among others.

Marine Insight rightfully observes that plastic in the sea is a result of human callousness. It is ironical and regrettable at the same time, that human beings want to enjoy the ocean while also contributing to its pollution. Next time you hold a plastic bottle in your hand, take time to carefully think of its impact to your country’s economy which consequently has a direct impact not only on your financial wellbeing but to the water bodies too.

Sammi Nderitu is the editor and photographer, Management Magazine.


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