Coastal and marine environment at its losing end
Coastal and marine habitats are deemed to be essential components of the ecosystem. Being home to a diversity of organisms, they support more than 90% of the ecological equilibrium. Resources that can be derived from these ecosystems include coral reefs, seagrasses and mangroves. Knowing that our country is archipelagic and bounded by rich collections of coastal and marine resources, it is also depressing to note that the said resources are confronted by several environmental problems.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has reported that more than 60% of the Filipino population lives within the coastal areas. The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) said that there are more than 800 of the 1,495 municipalities located within coastal areas. The damaging implications of having urban and rural communities in these locations have been identified to be substantial by various studies and statistics (Simpson, et. Al., 2001). For several decades now, problems on pollution of coastal waters, dwindling of live coral reefs, seagrasses and mangroves and several others concerning the reprehensible actions of the communities on these coastal areas were leading. Such problems have been identified by environmentalists to be products of the unceasing increase of population and the forceful attempts to establish an industrialized society.
The National Statistics Office has accounted that there are more babies born everyday compared to the number of people passing away. And because families could not find decent sources of income in the countryside, they flock to cities or municipalities near coastal regions where more opportunities are available (Lim, 1994). The DILG has also stated that there are 6 out of 10 cities in the country which are situated within coastal areas. And there are about a million Filipino people substantiating on fishing as the ultimate source of livelihood and sustenance.
Life in the city is far more intricate than what is expected by these migrants from rural areas. They squat on places, usually within coastal areas, where they can build their houses. This scenario is evident in Tacloban City where a majority of its coastlines is inhabited by unauthorized settlers. This is where the problem on waste disposal of the city enters. The families in these areas dump their garbage to the sea. This is not only rampant in Tacloban City but also in other major cities in the country. The persistence of this problem leads to the death of fishes, live corals, mangroves, seagrasses and sea weeds.
Aside from pollution, few fisherfolks are still into destructive fishing methods most especially when there is diminutive amount of fish catch. Coral reefs and seagrasses are threatened by various types of illegal fishing methods such as cyanide fishing, nearshore trawling and Muro-ami.
It is alarming to note that around 45% of coral reefs are under threat from these destructive means. More than 300,000 hectares of mangrove forests have been denuded for decades now. And around 40% loss of seagrasses and seaweeds has been reported for the past 50 years.
People need to be educated on the contributions of these coastal and marine resources that include live coral reefs, mangrove forests, seagrasses and seaweeds. These resources sustain more than 80% of all species of marine organisms primarily being important coastal habitats. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources has provided data informing that coral reefs produce more or less 15% of the country’s marine fishery production. Every square kilometer of coral reef is anticipated to supply more or less 30 tons of fish and marine invertebrates each year. Mangroves are not only beneficial being sources of fuel wood and construction material, they also contribute heavily to fish and other marine resources production. Furthermore, seagrasses and seaweeds are key feeding and nursery grounds for diverse types of marine organisms. Any intrusion or alteration to any of these coastal and marine resources could mean harm and danger to the entire ecosystem as a whole.
Coastal and marine resources are just some of the natural resources which are on the process of depletion. Forest resources, biodiversity resources, land resources, air quality, water quality, water resources and mineral resources are also getting compromised. Though it is not yet felt by many people, the environment is at its losing end. Just look at the tangible evidences around you. Though the environment continues to struggle in order to be the perfect abode for mankind, time will come when our planet will just stop living. The people residing on this planet are the primary reasons why the earth is sick and dying. Environmental scientists have long diagnosed this and it is a challenge and responsibility that have to be embraced by every individual.
By: Jed Paolo A. Cairo
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