The world’s largest accumulation of ocean plastic is located between Hawaii and California and according to scientists of The Ocean Cleanup, a non-profit, the mass of plastic known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) is estimated to weigh approximately 80,000 tons — equivalent to the weight of 500 jumbo jets.
Marine litter is a global transboundary pollution problem. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) states that over 80 percent of marine pollution comes from land-based activities — most of which involves humans. When it comes to the importance of oceans, which cover about 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, the United Nations notes that over three billion of us depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for our livelihoods. Not only that, these oceans absorb about 30 percent of carbon dioxide produced by human activities.
In this edition of MIT Technology Review Pakistan, our cover story by Zofeen T. Ebrahim is all about this important and somewhat neglected issue, at least in Pakistan. With particular focus on marine debris in the Arabian Sea, a region of the northern Indian Ocean, the writer dives deep to bring to surface problems of the marine life ecosystem. You will also meet a group of Pakistani scuba divers whose mission is to skim the ocean clean of debris along with marine conservation.
Due to the sheer size of the oceans, underwater scavenging missions are quite difficult, especially when no equipment has been developed so far that can comb the seabed without causing harm to the marine ecosystems, explains Ebrahim.
According to experts, fishing nets and plastic are among the deadliest marine trash. These ‘ghost’ nets float about as if invisible in the sea and any marine life that gets entangled in them dies. Retrieving these nets from the ocean requires a certain kind of skill, making it a difficult task. Also learn how Abdur Rehman Goth, a centuries-old fishing village in Sindh, has been turned into a marine conservancy now offering business plans for the locals.
In our Q+A section, we have interviewed Rabeel Warraich, the founder of Sarmayacar — a multi-million dollar seed fund syndicate dedicated to Pakistani startups. Starting with an interesting account of the evolving venture capital landscape in the country, he outlines different challenges including one related to local regulation and policies around venture capital, and also shares his story behind creating Sarmayacar.
Among the startup success stories from Pakistan, Warraich discusses Zameen.com and Daraz.pk and terms them the ‘tip of the iceberg,’ rightly highlighting the potential the country and its entrepreneurs have. He also stresses the need for creating more and more awareness. One of the pieces of advice he offers to budding Pakistani entrepreneurs is to focus on solving problems with locally developed solutions while other venture capitalists are advised to work with locals. Read to learn why Warraich sees Pakistan as an investment destination more attractive than even India.
A survey by Alif Ailaan, a campaign for education reform, revealed that students in Pakistan consistently score the least in Math and Science subjects. In our Review section, meet Science Fuse—an organization that aims to make science fun and engaging for Pakistani children. Join Lala Rukh Malik, the founder, and her team of science communicators as they help children experience scientific concepts in real-life that they have only theoretically read about in textbooks.
With an aim to make children curious, Science Fuse encourages young students to recreate experiments it designs and conducts for them at the workshops.
Last but not least, read Amel Ghani’s article on Lahore’s green cover which has been rapidly decreasing largely due to unplanned and uncontrolled expansion of the city, home now to over 11 million people. She also highlights the climate challenges associated with the expansion and cover loss.
Dr Umar Saif, Editor in Chief
Umar Saif tweets @umarsaif