The UN Environment defines marine litter as “any persistent, manufactured or processed solid material discarded, disposed of or abandoned in the marine and coastal environment”. It can consist of items that have been made or used by people and deliberately discarded into the sea or rivers or on beaches, or brought indirectly to the sea with rivers, sewage, stormwater or winds; and accidentally lost, including materials lost at sea in bad weather (such as fishing gear, and cargo from ships), as well as deliberately left by people on beaches and shores.
Plastic materials in different shapes and sizes are present in the seas and oceans, causing a wide spectrum of environmental, economic, safety, health, and cultural impacts. More specifically, plastic waste continues to chock the seas and threaten the coastal and marine ecosystems and livelihoods in the region. Southeast Asia, for instance, is both a contributor to and affected by the global issue of marine plastic pollution. More than half of the land-based plastic pollution in the region originates from some of the ASEAN countries, underscoring the importance of focusing on the region to address the issue. In addition to the environmental impact of the pollution, studies show that marine plastics cost the region approximately USD1.3 billion annually in the tourism, fishing, and shipping industries alone.
The SEA Circular Project is an initiative of the UN Environment Programme and the Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA) to inspire solutions and encourage enabling policies to address marine plastic pollution at the national and regional levels. The project aims to work with six countries in the region i.e., Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam from 2019 to 2023.
As part of the project, national efforts are underway through intersectoral cooperation with government agencies, NGOs, the private sector, academia, as well as international partners, to holistically address the issue. The National Steering Committee (NSC) as well as Technical Working Groups (TWGs) have been established in support of the formulation and implementation of actions towards addressing national marine litter strategies and challenges.
KASA representative highlighting the background of the SEA Circular project during the meeting.
The first meeting this year was held virtually with the members of NSC to discuss status, progress, challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as discussing issues and the way forward from the pandemic. The meeting was Chaired by Dr K Nagulendran, Deputy Secretary-General (Environment) of the Ministry of Environment and Water (KASA), as the focal ministry.
Members of the meeting discussing the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.