Forum calls on Asia to tackle marine plight

Forum calls on Asia to tackle marine plight

Environmentalists are calling for swift action to tackle marine pollution as Thailand remains among the top five ocean-polluting countries in Asia.

According to the report by the non-profit environmental organisation Ocean Conservancy, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam are the top five plastic polluters in Asia.

Ambassador Peter Thomson, the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Envoy for the Ocean, said more efforts should be made to tackle the ubiquity of plastic in Asia.

"The global plastic plague has permeated the marine food chain with microfibers. We are eating them. They are crossing blood-brain barriers. When it comes to pollution, there are also fertilisers and heavy metals," he told a forum on the second Asia-Pacific Day for the Ocean at the United Nations Conference Centre (UNCC) in Bangkok.

Mushtaq Ahmed Memon, the regional coordinator for resource efficiency at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, urged the government to take concrete action following the adoption of the Bangkok Declaration on Combating Marine Debris in the 34th Asean Summit in June.

"It is good to have a declaration because it shows political will. They have a basis to do things. Data is there. I hope it will be fast-tracked," he said.

He proposed that plastic waste should be managed as a resource in light of the circular economy because various types of plastic can be reused in several ways. "It will help [Asia Pacific] to become a zero-plastic region in the oceans at the end of the day," he said.

Meanwhile, Ralyn Satidtanasarn, a 12-year-old activist known as "Lilly", addressed the forum.

"I haven't really identified myself as an activist. My family has been environmentally conscious. We talk about how we can change the world for the better. I remember seeing whales and dugongs washed up on shore, which made me feel we are misusing the Earth. If we don't like something, why don't we change it?" she said.

Lilly said she has tried not to use plastic in her daily life but her individual effort is not enough.

"I don't see Thailand on the list [of countries that ban use of single-use plastic]. It makes me feel bad. Everybody knows it is a big issue but why are we treating it the way it is?" Lilly encouraged other children to believe in their potential to push for change.

"We have to keep on pushing, no matter how hard it is because we can no longer accept excuses. I've cleaned beaches, protested, talked to companies and retailers to convince them not to use single-use plastic. I have good news. By next year, 43 major retailers will no longer give single-use plastic bags," she said to applause.

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