World Oceans Day – A Death Sea Called Mediterranean
While the United Nations identifies 17 major regional seas in its planning, the Mediterranean is perhaps the most dramatic case as it has gone from being the so-called cradle of civilization to be a cemetery for thousands of asylum-seekers and migrants. And it is most probably also the most polluted water basin the whole world. See this report.
The Mediterranean covers a surface of 2,5 million square kilometres and is surrounded by 22 countries, which together share a coastline of 46,000 kilometres, and are home to around 480 million people across three continents: Africa, Asia and Europe.
But it is also a sort of a huge salty lake, being a semi-enclosed sea with only two tiny points of contact with open oceans-the Suez Canal in the East and the Gibraltar Straits in the West.
This implies that its waters need between 80 years and 150 years to be renewed as a result of its contact with open oceans, according to the Athens-based UN Environment Programme’s Mediterranean Actions Plan (UNEP/MAP).
In other words, a drop of polluted water remains there, circulating for a whole century on average.
Add to this that of its total population, nearly 1 in 3 inhabitant–or over 160 million—are permanent residents in urban centres situated along its coasts. And that some 180 millions tourists visit its shores annually, this making a total of some 340 million people concentrated in the coastal area during the peak holiday seasons.
Result: millions of people dumping in the Mediterranean their domestic and urban solid and liquid wastes. The problem becomes more evident if you consider that up to few years ago, over 40 per cent of coastal urban centres lacked sewage treatment facilities, and 80 per cent of waste water was disposed off in the sea untreated, according to UNEP/MAP. 20.000 Tonnes of Petrol Per Year
Then come industrial activities as a key source of pollution, mainly from the chemical, petro-chemical and metallurgy sectors. Just some examples:
— Some 60 refineries dump into the sea nearly 20.000 tonnes of petrol/year;
— Chemical products used in agriculture generate runoffs containing pesticides, nitrates and phosphates,
— Other industries such as the treatment of wastes and solvent generation, surface treatment of metals, production of paper, paints and plastics, dyeing, printing and tanneries, bring more pollution to the sea.
But the Mediterranean sea is also under pressure from intense maritime activities: with 30 per cent of all international sea-borne trade by volume originating from or directed to its ports or passing through its waters, and nearly 25 per cent of the world’s sea-transported oil transiting it, maritime traffic and sea-based pollution are among the key causes of pollution of this sea. (IPS)