Pollution Preventative Measures

National policies and responsibilities

Even if pollution of the Region's marine environment may already affect ecological systems, human health and welfare, management of these problems is often fragmented among governmental agencies. The implication of increased pollution is often not well understood and therefore the precautionary principle argues that since we cannot reliably predict the effects of new inputs to an area which already receives a large volume of wastes, no waste should be discharged to the sea unless it can be shown to be harmless.

Win-Win Strategies for Reducing Marine Pollution
Reduced waste generation - reduced waste treatment and disposal costs
Clean Technologies - reduced waste generation
Recycling of material - reduced consumption of raw materials and less waste
Consumer consciousness - increased markets for green products

Pollution costs are often not included in economic cost-benefit analysis of industrial and urban projects, resulting in promotion of environmentally unsound development. But reducing pollution can increase profits. Several such "win-win strategies" can be applied to pollution reduction. Working towards these "win-win strategies" would require changes in present market behavior and national environmental policies. Today there is little incentives for environmentally sound behavior as the costs for marine pollution are borne by a minority of individuals and the public at large not responsible for them.

Pollution control can be achieved by several means. Principally among these are governmental regulations and environmental impact assessments, including emission standards, disposal practices and site location. Several policy mechanisms such as pricing, environmental taxes, and emission fees ... incentives for compliance with regulations through the "polluter-pays" principle. Reduction of subsidies on water, energy and raw material may also encourage reduction of waste and more efficient use of raw materials.

Trading of pollution permits may be used to let the market forces define the price and cost of pollution. However, until the full costs of the pollution falls back on the polluter, these mechanisms must be used in combination with governmental command and control mechanisms. To date there are few, if any, cases where the "polluter-pays" principle has been successful in achieving environmental standards.

Technology development has the potential to dramatically reduce the pollution of marine waters. However, the best available technology is in most cases too expensive to be applied.

Regarding infrastructure investments, environmentally sound wastewater and drainage systems, water treatment facilities and well planned sewage outfalls for major coastal cities are probably the most urgent global need for public health and coastal zone management. Municipal solid waste management and final disposal solutions avoiding open dumping in vulnerable coastal ecosystems are urgently needed throughout the world. Considerable investments will be required to accomplish these tasks. Reduction of shipgenerated waste would require ports worldwide to have adequate reception facilities for oil, garbage and sewage.

Consumer consciousness and preference can create markets for environmentally sound products. Governmental incentives can promote such development.

Monitoring and water quality standards

Traditionally, the state of the marine environment is controlled by monitoring activities and the results compared with environmental standards. Although establishment of water quality criteria may be a useful tool in estimating the environmental stress in polluted waters, the value of these criteria is limited. The most common parameters in monitoring programmes like pH, salinity, oxygen demand, color, etc. do not give any indication of the complex chemical mixture in industrial effluents and do not contribute significantly to assessing the risk to marine life and human health. More complicated analysis may give better information on toxicity under laboratory conditions, but not on the effects on marine organisms under natural conditions. Identifying levels of pollutants in water is combined with analytical difficulties associated to normally low concentrations, fast turn over rates and the relatively static sampling technique. Accumulation in marine organisms and sediments may provide better information on chronic pollution situations by providing an integrated view of the ecosystem over time, reflecting cumulative effects and long term changes.

In addition to generating standards for water quality, emission or effluent standards may be used as the basis for regulating the use of marine waters by restricting further expansion and/or development of infrastructure facilities. In cases where protected areas are under stress, regulatory measures could be directed towards reducing the sources of stress, eventually achieving water quality levels consistent with low-stress conditions.

International co-operation and financing

Marine pollution does not respect political borders and international cooperation is imperative to identifying global solutions. In some areas, like the Black Sea, pollution from land-based sources has brought the whole Black Sea to the border of ecological collapse. Other areas may not face the same acute problems, but the problem of marine pollution is clearly transboundary.

International organizations such as UNEP, IMO and IOC are developing global and/or regional programs and conventions to reduce marine pollution. The World Bank and other development banks are supporting regional programs to protect the marine environment and are lending to individual countries to reduce marine pollution. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) has declared the protection of international waters as one of the priority areas for support.

You are in Module 4: Pollution Preventative Measures