With World Oceans Day, the UN aims to use international law and cooperation to save our dying wealth through sustainable development and building support for ocean awareness.

New Delhi: Our planet earth is called the “Blue Planet” due to abundance of water filled in the depressions of its crust. The blue wealth which we have taken for granted is a rare commodity in our solar system. The global ecological systems that make earth habitable are driven by the chemistry of the world’s oceans.

In order to create awareness and celebrate the importance of oceans in our lives, the United Nations General Assembly on December 5, 2020, decided to observe World Oceans Day every year on June 8. However, originally the concept was first proposed in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro by Canada’s International Centre for Ocean Development (ICOD) and the Ocean Institute of Canada (OIC).

Importance of Oceans

Oceans act as natural carbon sinks. They absorb the excess atmospheric carbon dioxide using biological mechanisms. Carbon stored in these natural sinks for millennia gets converted into resources through metamorphic processes under high temperature and pressure in the marine environment.

Apart from acting as sinks, the world’s oceans act as lungs of our habitable planet earth. Tiny plants in the marine ecosystem known as phytoplanktons produce about 50 to 80 per cent of earth’s atmospheric oxygen as a byproduct of photosynthesis.

From weather, climate, rainfall, food, livelihood, lifestyle, identity and so many other aspects of the life of humankind are directly or indirectly influenced by oceans.

Moreover, throughout the history of human civilization, oceans have facilitated trade. Even in today’s economic era, delivery of goods via water transport from one nation to others is considered to be cost-effective and efficient.

Oceans under threat

Our blue wealth has exponentially degraded in less than a century. Resource management in an unsustainable way and climate change has degraded marine ecosystems. The coastal waters are immensely polluted. The industrialisation has led to thermal pollution and acidification of all water bodies including oceans. The increased overfishing levels especially using trawlers have disturbed biodiversity and pushed food systems to vulnerability. As oceans cover 97 per cent of our earth’s surface, it means 97 per cent of space inhabited by life is under threat.

The menace of plastic pollution is also ravaging the world’s oceans. Now the ‘corona’ plastic waste is a new entrant dictating water pollution. Recently, during a routine clean up in the Mediterranean Sea, a group of divers from a French NGO found several latex gloves and single-use masks in the waters of the sea. Recently the scientists issued a warning citing that the world’s oceans are likely to register a rise of 1.3 m by 2100 if the Earth temperature rises by 3.5 degrees Celsius. Climate change is melting the ice sheets covering the Earth’s poles.

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