World Oceans Day: The Mediterranean drama

The Mediterranean sea has become the main obstacle for thousands of migrants and is also the most polluted water basin in the world.

World Ocean Day is marked on June 8. This year, the Mediterranean has become the center of a dramatic scenario, with thousands of migrants crossing its waters hoping to arrive to Europe. "It has gone from being the so-called cradle of civilization to be a cemetery for thousands of asylum-seekers and migrants," writes Baher Kamal  in an IPS article.

It is a semi-enclosed sea with two points of contact with open oceans in the Suez Canal and the Gibraltar Straits. With a surface of 2,5 million square kilometers and surrounded by 22 countries, the Mediterranean shares a 46,000 km coastline between the people across Africa, Asia and Europe.

Its waters need 80 to 150 years to be renewed after its contact with open oceans, according to the UN Environment Programme's Mediterranean Actions Plans (UNEP/MAP), based in Athens. Polluted waters then remain circulating in the sea for a century in average.

Over 160 million people are resident in urban areas located along the coasts and about 180 million tourists visit its shores every year. Some 340 people then concentrate in the coastal area during the peak holiday season.

This results in domestic and urban solid and liquid wastes being dumped in the Mediterranean. More so, up to a few years ago, more than 40% of these areas lacked sewage treatment facilities and over 80% of waste waters were disposed off in the sea untreated, according to UNEP/MAP.

Industrial activities are also main pollutant agents in this sea. Up to 60 refineries dump into the sea more than 20,000 tonnes of petrol per year. Also chemical products used in agriculture end up in the sea. Other industries like treatment of wastes, solvent generation and production of paper, paints and plastics pollute the Mediterranean.

Marine traffic and sea based pollution are some of the main causes of pollution in this sea. 30% of all international sea-borne trade passes through the Mediterranean. An estimated 200,000 merchant vessels cross it annually. Pollution from ships like oil discharges, tanks washing residues and oil sludge fall into the sea.

Also, UNEP/MAP considers marine litter as a critical issue in the Mediterranean.

World Ocean Day:

According to a UN report world's oceans  drive global systems that make the Earth habitable for humankind.

“Our rainwater, drinking water, weather, climate, coastlines, much of our food, and even the oxygen in the air we breathe, are all ultimately provided and regulated by the sea. Throughout history, oceans and seas have been vital conduits for trade and transportation.”

- Oceans cover three quarters of the Earth's surface and contain 97% of Earth's water.

- Over 3 billion people  depend on marine and coastal biodiversity

- Oceans absorb about 30% of CO2 produced by humans

- Oceans are the world's largest source of protein with more than 2.6 billion people depending on the oceans as their prime source of protein

- Marine fisheries employ directly or indirectly over 200 million people

- Oceans contain about 200,000 identified species, but actual numbers round the millions

- As much as 40% of the world's ocean are heavily affected by human activities like pollution, depleted fisheries and loss of coastal habitats


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