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Global Plastic Crisis: Nat Geo team returns to BD for post-monsoon expedition

  • Published at 04:33 pm November 20th, 2019
Labels from single-use plastic waste collected from Dhanmondi Lake Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

Using the data they collect, the team will work with local and national partners to inform solutions, fill knowledge gaps, and help drive a long-term positive change

As part of the global 'Planet or Plastic?' initiative,  team of National Geographic Society has made their way to Bangladesh for the second time to begin the second phase of the Padma River expedition to identify solutions to help tackle the global plastic crisis.

The expedition titled  ‘Sea to Source: Ganges’ will also focus on documenting how plastic waste travels from source to sea and filling the critical knowledge gaps around plastic flow, load, and composition, reports UNB.

Aiming to mobilize a global community of experts to help tackle the global problem of plastic pollution, the team will measure post-monsoon plastic pollution levels in the river and surrounding communities, and will conduct interviews and solution workshops at each site.

Using the data they collect, the team will work with local and national partners to inform solutions, fill knowledge gaps, and help drive a long-term positive change.

Back in October, a team of scientists and engineers, co-led by National Geographic Fellows Jenna Jambeck and Heather Koldewey, began a two-month long expedition, traveling the full 2,575 kilometres (1,600 miles) of the mainstream Padma — from the Bay of Bengal to the river’s source in the Himalayas.

The “Sea to Source: Ganges” river expedition is also supported by Tata Trusts in India.

“Ocean plastic pollution is a global crisis. Every year, about 9 million metric tons of plastic are added, with rivers acting as major conveyor belts that move plastic debris into the ocean,” said Heather Koldewey, National Geographic Fellow, Explorer and scientific co-lead of the “Sea to Source: Ganges” expedition.

“Our focus on this expedition is to understand how people and plastic connect with the Padma River and ultimately the ocean, using our data to raise awareness and identify solution,” she added.

The first phase of the river expedition took place in May-July of this year where nine community workshops were conducted on solutions to plastic waste. 

They also interviewed over 250 individuals about their perceptions and use of plastic, took more than 300 environmental samples, and documented more than 56,000 pieces of debris using the Marine Debris Tracker app. They also released 3,000 biodegradable wooden 'drift cards' and 10 plastic ‘bottle tags’ to track the movement of plastic waste using community engagement both on land and in waterways.

The initiative is co-partnered by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Indian Institute of Technology, Dhaka University, WildTeam and Isabela Foundation.

The expedition team will be sharing its journey at NatGeo.org/plastic.

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