Water Pollution: The Problem

Problems and Solutions

Every year, thousands of tons of trash, chemical waste, and other pollutants make their way into the seas and oceans worldwide. Marine Debris has been a consistent pollution problem since the dawn of industrialization that reaches the oceans from rivers and has been the most accountable part of water pollution. Our oceans and other water bodies are filled with a variety of marine debris, ranging from small plastics, rubber, and soda cans to huge chunks of metal bodies.

Courtesy:- ITL

Worldwide, millions of innocent marine species have been negatively impacted when these unwanted pollutants are consumed by them. Economic structures all around have also been affected by it.

Most of the marine debris comes from humans with a majority of it originating on land especially industrial areas and finding its way to water bodies through irresponsible waste management practices somewhere down the line by littering, and stormwater discharge. Some debris, like lost fishing gear, can also come from sea-based sources. Any lost or abandoned fishing gear is a major threat to marine life and can even damage sensitive habitats such as coral reefs. For hundreds of years, things like these are posing a threat for thousands of species around the globe. Many species are on the verge of extinction. We humans need to understand and realize the value of these coral reefs and beautiful and unique species of marine life which can be never brought back to life once they become extinct.

International, National, and even Local efforts are necessary to address this environmental problem that has been going on for years and bring an end to this. “The Marine Debris Act” has been promoted by the “Save our Seas Act of 2018” to take any necessary action required against this major problem; to clean up and promote coordination amongst federal agencies on this topic.

Sewage- The Problem

Discharging sewage by any possible means into the oceans can create numerous health hazards for marine life. This sewage can affect the health of marine and aquatic animals drastically by leading to oxygen depletion in the water bodies and can be obvious visual pollution in coastal areas; a major problem for places with tourist attractions around the globe, and with about 90% of trade being carried out by the seas accidental dumping or discharge of raw sewage into oceans from ships and other vessels is not uncommon or unnatural, in turn contributes hugely to marine pollution.


The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) is the parent body covering the prevention of pollution of marine environments around the globe by ships from operational or accidental causes.

On the 2nd November 1973, MARPOL Convention was adopted at the International Maritime Organization. The Protocol of 1978 was adopted in response to several tanker accidents that took place over the years between the years 1976-1977. As the 1973 MARPOL Convention was not in force at the time, the 1978 MARPOL Protocol was the one to absorbed the parent Convention. Both of the protocols entered into force on 2nd October 1983. In 1997, a new Protocol was adopted to amend the old Convention and a new Annex VI was added amongst the list which entered into force on 19 May 2005. MARPOL has been updated by amendments over time since then.


W.E.F- 27th Sept. 2003

Annex IV contains a set of rules, regulations, and guidelines regarding the discharge and dumping of sewage into oceans and seas from ships, including regulations regarding the ship’s equipment and systems for controlling the discharge of sewage, provision of port reception facilities for sewage, and survey and certification requirements.

Far away from the coast and in the depths of seas beyond a certain point, the oceans are capable of accumulating and dealing with sewage with the help of natural bacterial action so the regulations in Annex IV of MARPOL allow the discharge of sewage into the sea after a specified distance from the nearest land or coastline has been reached so that the discharge of sewage would not pose a threat for the environment or be a major source of pollution for the water bodies.

Governments and parent organizations in different countries around the Earth are in the process of ensuring the provision of adequate facilities and technology at ports and terminals all over for the reception of sewage, without causing much delay to the operation and transport of ships.

The Annex first entered into force on 27 September 2003 but a revised Annex IV was then adopted on 1 April 2004 and entered into force on 1 August 2005. The revised Annex applies to all ships of 400 gross tonnages and above, engaged in international voyages or which are certified to carry more than 15 persons. According to the Annex, the ships are needed to be equipped with either an approved sewage holding tank, an approved treatment plant, or an approved sewage comminuting and disinfecting system on board.

Discharge Standards

Discharge or dumping sewage into the sea is strictly prohibited, except when the ship is at a distance of more than three nautical miles from the nearest land and has in operation an approved sewage treatment plant or when the ship is discharging comminuted and disinfected sewage using a system which has been approved.

Sewage that is not comminuted or disinfected may be discharged at a distance of more than 12 nautical miles from the nearest land when the ship is on route and proceeding at the speed of at least 4 knots and the depth of water is not less than 25 meters.The rate of discharge of untreated sewage shall be approved by the Administration who is in charge.

The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) has also adopted the Recommendation on standards for the rate of discharge of untreated sewage from ships into ocean waters.

Special Areas

These are oceanic or sea areas where due to certain topographic conditions certain regulations have been implemented by the parent body for the protection of that area

The list of Special Areas are as follows: –

Courtesy:- Scribd

Currently, the Baltic Sea area is the only Special Area under Annex IV.

  • www.imo.org
  • www.activescuba.com
  • en.wikipedia.org
  • marinestudy.net
  • marinersclub.blogspot.com

Authored By:- Cdt. Arkajyoti Mukherjee, TMI

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