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The science which keeps our oceans healthy

15 November 2022


Prof Dr Altaf Hussain :
Oceanography is a multi-disciplinary field such as biology, chemistry, geology, and physics that interrelate to expand knowledge of the world oceans and the processes within it. Many scientists throughout the world are busy at work with a diversity of important issues of oceans such as climate change, development of new drug, invention of new technology to explore the sea, to address marine pollutions, to investigate declining fisheries, eroding coastlines, etc. To address these issues, we need more and more skilled and educated manpower on ocean related subjects which will allow us to explore and exploit our vast sea area, 118,831 sq. km, in the Bay of Bengal.
Like other branches of science, oceanography has also specifications and specializations within it such as Biological Oceanography deals with the organisms which live in the ocean and study their behavioral patterns, their food habits and their breeding. Oceans are very rich in minerals and nutrients and Chemical Oceanographers identify those beneficial ocean resources. Recent reports also show that ocean resources can be used as medicines for many critical ailments. One of the very important fields of oceanography is the Geological Oceanography and with this we study the structure of the ocean floor, exploring the ocean bed, and taking cognizance of what changes in the physical structure formed the valleys, the mountains and the canyons. Geological oceanographers look at millions of years of history of physical movements like volcanic movements that constructed the sea-floor.
Maritime Education: To develop skilled man power in the field of maritime higher studies and research, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Maritime University (BSMRMU), Bangladesh, the first Maritime University of the country, was established in 2013 with a motto, "We Strive for Maritime Excellence". At present, the university conducts its academic programmes from its temporary campus at Pallabi, Mirpur -12 in Dhaka. The government of Bangladesh has allocated 106.68 acres of land at Hamidchar in the district of Chattagram for the permanent campus of the university. Due to the shortage of space in the temporary campus, currently the university runs only 5 undergraduate and 9 post-graduate programmes.
Marine Pollution: Our oceans are being degraded by human activities that harm marine life, undermine coastal communities and negatively affect human health. The types of marine pollution can be grouped as ocean acidification, toxins, nutrient pollution, pollution from marine debris, plastic including micro plastic pollution, and underwater noise. It is estimated that about 80 per cent of pollution to the marine environment comes from the land. One of the biggest sources is called non-point source pollution, which occurs as a result of runoff. Runoff includes many small sources, like septic tanks, cars, trucks, and boats, plus larger sources, such as farms, ranches, and forest areas. Millions of motor vehicle engines drop small amounts of oil each day onto roads and parking lots. Much of this, too, makes its way to the sea. Some water pollution actually starts as air pollution, which settles into waterways and oceans. Dirt can be a pollutant. Top soil or silt from fields or construction sites can run off into waterways, harming fish and wildlife habitats. Non-point source pollution can make river and ocean water unsafe for humans and wildlife. In some areas, this pollution is so bad that it causes beaches to be closed after rainstorms.
Another culprit pollutant is plastic pollution in our oceans. Till 1970s, only a small amount of plastic was produced, and as a result, plastic waste was relatively manageable. Since 1970s, the rate of plastic production has grown faster than that of any other material. If the current growth rate continues, global production of primary plastic is forecasted to reach 1.1 billion tons by 2050. It is reported that 1,000 rivers are accountable for nearly 80 per cent of global annual riverine plastic emissions into the ocean, which range between 0.8 and 2.7 million tons per year.
UN Decade of Ocean Science (2021-2030): One of the many activities of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) is 2022 UN climate change conference at COP27. The Ocean Decade will host a sries of events that will focus on the need and methods for diverse actors to collectively work across the science - policy - society to ensure that ocean science leads to tangible and sustainable climate action. Specific themes to be addressed through the Ocean Decade events include: (i) climate action in Africa, (ii) resilience including the role of nature-based-solutions, (iii) financing for ocean science for climate action, and (iv) communicating ocean science for climate action. All events will align with the priorities ofCOP27 related to adaptation, mitigation, financing and collaboration and the key messages of the Ocean Climate Dialogue held in June 2022. Events will showcase existing Decade Actions (https://oceandecade.org/decade-actions/) working at the global, regional and national levels, and engage representatives of key Decade structures including the Ocean Decade Alliance (https://oceandecade.org/ocean-decade-alliance/) and Decade Advisory Board (https://oceandecade.org/decade-advisory-board/). The Ocean Decade is a partner of the two ground breaking initiatives at COP, the Ocean Pavilion (https://oceanpavilion.whoi.edu/) and the Ocean x Climate Summit (https://oceanic.global/projects/cop-27-the-ocean-x-climate-summit/).
BSMRMU is organizing an International Seminar, 'UN Decade of Ocean Science- Imperatives for Bangladesh', to be held on 17 November 2022 at Krishibid Institution, Khamar Bari Rd, Dhaka, Bangladesh. In this one day seminar, there will be two plenary sessions, one parallel technical. The keynote presentation of the seminar, 'Ocean Science - Gateway to Sustainable Development' will be delivered in the inaugural session.  In the plenary sessions, 8plenary lectures will be delivered and in the technical session (3 parallel sessions) 15 invited lectures will be presented. Senior faculties, scientists (from home and broad) who are experts in various fields of marine science accepted the invitation to participate this International Seminar of BSMRMU.

(The writer is Academic Adviser, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Maritime University, Bangladesh).

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