14-15 February 2022
The East Asia Summit (EAS) provides a platform for discussions on critical strategic issues in the Indo-Pacific region. It contributes to confidence-building in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean region and strengthens cooperation to address common challenges on maritime issues.
Coastal and marine plastic pollution, for example, is a challenge shared by EAS countries. In this regard, the EAS is in a unique position to share expertise and lessons learned among regions and sub-regions confronted with similar challenges to develop sustainable transboundary solutions.
There are also numerous references on required actions and cooperation among countries, at the various levels, on addressing the issue. For instance, the recently launched ASEAN Regional Action Plan for Combatting Marine Debris builds on ASEAN’s long-term work to address marine plastic debris. Other initiatives include the Bangkok Declaration on Combating Marine Debris in ASEAN; the ASEAN Framework of Action on Marine Debris; the 2017 Conference on Reducing Marine Debris in the ASEAN Region; and the “Our Ocean Conference” held in Bali, Indonesia, in October 2018, which acknowledged the urgent need for collective and coordinated actions to address the region’s marine debris challenge.
Taking these factors into account, the governments of India, Singapore, and Australia organised this year’s EAS Workshop on combating marine pollution, focusing on plastic marine debris. The forum aimed to understand better the scope of the Indo-Pacific plastic marine debris problem, promote regional cooperation by highlighting existing best practices, policies, technologies, and innovations from EAS countries, and identify opportunities for regional engagement to move toward implementation and outcomes.
The Opening Session featured key representatives from the Ministry of Earth Sciences India (top, left), CSIRO Australia (top, right), and the Ministry of Sustainability and Environment Singapore (bottom)
More than 90 people from various countries attended, including scientists, government officials, representatives from industry, innovation, and the informal sector. The workshop sessions focused on the magnitude of the marine litter problem (Session 1), best practices and solutions (Session 2), technology and innovations (Session 3), and regional collaboration opportunities (Session 4). Expert presentations, panel discussions, and interactive discussions were all part of the sessions.
Cheryl Rita, Head of the MIMA Centre for Straits of Malacca, was invited to speak at Session 1, which focused on monitoring and research on plastic debris in the Indo-Pacific region. Dr Britta Denise Hardesty from CSIRO Australia, Professor Atsuhiko Isobe from Kyushu University Japan, Dr Shukla Pal Maitra from the National Productivity Council of India, and Dr Jirapoen Charoenvattanaporn from Thailand’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment also spoke at the session. The session focused on the status and role of monitoring programmes in informing policy and decision-making, the assessment of hotspots, the associated risks to the coastal and marine environment and life, and appropriate tools and innovative solutions to address the issue.
MIMA was involved in Session 1 on the magnitude of the marine litter problem, alongside speakers from Japan, India, and Thailand.
Overall, the forum highlighted potential solutions and pathways for reducing marine plastic pollution in the Indo-Pacific region. It garnered support from EAS countries for existing regional efforts, such as the ASEAN Framework, to address the issue.