New Delhi, May 6 (PTI) An international all-woman team of researchers will soon embark on an expedition to study plastic pollution in river Ganga and document the flow of plastic waste from source to sea, the National Geographic Society said Monday.
The expedition — Sea to Source: Ganges — will offer a unique and unprecedented opportunity to scientifically document plastic waste in a watershed and develop holistic and inclusive solutions, it said.
"An international, all-female expedition team will study plastic pollution in one of the world's most iconic waterways — the Ganges River (known locally as Ganga and Padma)," it said.
The team plans to share its expedition experiences real-time on National Geographic's website (https://www.nationalgeographic.org/).
The expedition is likely to begin towards the end of this month.
It will be done in partnership with Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII), the University of Dhaka and WildTeam, and is part of National Geographic's journey to better understand and document how plastic waste travels from source to sea and to fill critical knowledge gaps around plastic flow, load and composition, it said in a statement.
"The expedition will offer a unique and unprecedented opportunity to scientifically document plastic waste in a watershed and develop holistic and inclusive solutions," it said.
According to the Washington-based non-profit organisation, the ocean is clogged with an estimated nine million tonnes of plastic every year, and rivers play a significant role in this problem as they act as conveyor belts for plastic debris flowing into the ocean.
"The 'Sea to Source: Ganges' expedition is the first of several international river expeditions planned as part of National Geographic's 'Planet or Plastic' initiative, which aims to significantly reduce the amount of single-use plastic that reaches the ocean.
"After an initial expedition to the Ganges, the team plans to replicate the expedition after the monsoon season to capture seasonal variations," it stated.
The expedition team of 15 scientists and engineers, co-led by National Geographic Fellows Jenna Jambeck and Heather Koldewey, will work with international partners to provide science-based, actionable information to build capacity for local solutions.
"National Geographic is deeply committed to advancing solutions to the plastic waste crisis. These expeditions are a tremendous opportunity to mobilize a global community of experts to help tackle the problem," Valerie Craig, vice president of operating programmes at the National Geographic Society was quoted as saying in the statement.
"I'm particularly delighted that this expedition elevates women in science, technology, engineering and math around the world to help us understand how plastic moves through our waterways and ultimately to find ways to prevent plastic waste from entering the ocean," she said.
As part of its commitment to reduce plastic pollution from entering the ocean, the team aims to be environment friendly and single-use-plastic-free throughout the expedition.
The expedition will focus on plastic pollution in three key areas: land, water and people.
"The team working on the land portion will collect data on the input and use of plastic in communities, and how waste is collected and managed, and will quantify the movement and type of plastic in the environment. The water team will study plastic pollution in the air, water, sediment and species in and around the river," the statement said.
The socioeconomic team will survey local communities along the expedition route to better understand awareness and perceptions of plastic pollution, household plastic waste management and local solutions for addressing this issue, the Society said.
During the expedition, the team will work with local stakeholders to translate its scientific findings, using storytelling to raise awareness about plastic pollution and drive behaviour change, it added.
"This is the largest ever all-female National Geographic expedition; the first time there has been a four-dimensional comprehensive investigation of the plastic pollution issue at this scale across sediment, water, air and land," the statement said.
This initial expedition is planned to begin in the Bay of Bengal through the Padma River and to end at the source of the Ganges in the Himalaya. PTI KND ABH