India’s biggest festival , Diwali has come and gone a couple of days ago. Now the truth can be told. Delhiites are gasping for breath .The dense haze and the near- choking Diwali air in Delhi is worse than last year. No wonder !The Central Pollution Control Board has said that at all monitoring locations in Delhi, Particulate matter (PM10) levels were found to be higher than last year. Levels of sulphur dioxide (SO2) ,associated with breathing difficulty and other respiratory ailments were also higher compared to 2012, according to Delhi Pollution Control Committee data . Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director, research and advocacy, Centre for Science and Environment, has said that SO2 is an extremely harmful pollutant and the fact that it has increased so much on Diwali, points to the kind of crackers that are being manufactured.
The environment is polluted in many ways: such as air pollution, land pollution, noise pollution, light pollution, thermal pollution, visual pollution (unattractive billboards )radioactive pollution and even personal pollution (lifestyle-detrimental actions).The Diwali festival is an offender in many areas. Besides air pollution, it causes noise pollution. The loud bursting of crackers till late night is harmful to unborn babies, infants, the sick and the elderly. It also raises the stress level. This year, the noise levels (of crackers) were higher in many east and north Delhi areas. The unnecessary lights decorating the homes during the festival cause light pollution and may also affect our health and sleep patterns.
So which areas are pollution-free in the modern world? Glaciers are melting in the Himalayas due to dust and soot. The rivers are dirty with industrial waste. Improper disposal of garbage pollute the plains. Even the oceans are not safe anymore. Oil spills, toxic wastes and dumping of harmful wastes cause ocean pollution. While there are sanctuaries for animals, world heritage sites for monuments, huge parks in cities to clean the air, very little is being done to preserve the health of oceans. But Hope Spots have ventured to change all that.
The word Hope is evocative of spring season, blue colour, positivity, safety etc.Hope Spots will therefore bring to mind ,places which ring of optimism. Hope spots are thus the under-water sanctuary for marine life. A Hope Spot is an area of ocean that merits special protection because of its wildlife and significant underwater habitats. As oceanographer Sylvia Earle has said , “What we’ve done here is identify a number of critical areas that represent a real hope to restore the health of our imperilled ocean.”The mission started with nineteen and now there are fifty Hope Spots around the world. There are four more proposed Hope Spots on the anvil. These spots are chosen by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Sylvia Earle of Mission Blue, an organization involved in the study of oceans.
Some of the existing Hope Spots are: 1)The Chagos Archipelago which has the world’s largest coral atoll and as much as half of the Indian Ocean’s remaining healthy reefs;2)Outer Sechelles which has sand cays and atolls; 3)Coral Sea which has a huge number of corals and the Great Barrier Reef;4)Kermadec Trench which is one of the earth’s deepest oceanic trenches;5)Gulf of Mexico Deep Reefs which has a large number of soft corals, subtropical and tropical invertebrates and many species of fish;6)Ross Sea, the most pristine marine ecosystem on earth.
The main function of a Hope Spot is to prevent oceans from random human activities, so that the oceans can replenish their resources ,protect and pullulate their marine reserves. Another aim is to preserve critical ocean habitat. For example, The Andaman Islands is a new entry in Hope Spots because it has some of the world’s unique species of birds and plants. In another new entrant , Lakshadweep Islands, the coral reefs need protection because they are quite sensitive to the ocean environment.
Bering Sea Deep Canyons is a Hope Spot where the marine environment is in danger because of industrial fishing. Another spot, Central Arctic Ocean has endangered marine species like walruses and whales. The area has a fragile ecosystem which is slow to change and slow to recover from disruption or damage. Central American Dome is considered to be a major sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide and important for maintenance of the earth’s climate. It also has endangered blue whale and leatherback turtles. The intensification of commercial shipping increases the collision risk with whales and turtles. Ascension Island is included in Hope Spot because it has a special species of fern (Ascension Island parsley fern)which was thought to have become extinct due to habitat loss ,until four plants were found on the island in 2010.
Sylvia Earle rightly defines Hope Spots as earth’s blue heart. Just as the heart is critical for a person’s health, the ocean is good for the planet. In that case, the cities are the earth’s green heart. Why can’t we create Hope Spots in cities ?
By Bulbul Niyogi