Guardians of the Deep Sea

Many scuba divers are converting their passion into a purpose — cleaning up trash from the deep sea, helping reef restoration and ocean conservation

Update: 2024-03-23 18:51 GMT

When you preserve water, you preserve life! Yet, the callous dumping of waste, plastic, and industrial sewage into water bodies goes on unabashedly. It is a classic case of ‘Water Disgrace.’ More than 171 trillion pieces of plastic are floating in the world's oceans. A study published in Science Journal ranks India 12th among the 192 countries, infamous for dumping plastic waste. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) reported that sewage generation from urban areas in India is approximately 72,368 million litre per day. While the government is doing its best to bring the situation under control, a group of scuba divers have taken the plunge into the murky waters to clean up trash and help reef restoration and ocean conservation. These eco-divers are silently guarding the ocean and inspiring others to follow suit.

Troubled Waters

Anshika Singh, a marine biologist and scientist talks about the various reasons contributing to ocean degradation. “The challenges of climate change-induced ocean warming and acidification is caused by overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution and unsustainable coastal development.” Anshika, a certified scuba eco diver highlights the contributions of eco divers for ocean conservation saying, “Eco scuba divers conduct cleanup dives, participate in citizen science programs for marine biodiversity monitoring, and advocate for sustainable fishing practices to prevent resource overexploitation.” By 2050, it is estimated that there will be more plastic in the ocean than marine life. The constant onslaught on water bodies has endangered marine habitats. Numerous fish and coral reefs are succumbing to acidic sewage waters, rising ocean temperatures, and waste dumped in the water.

Adv Afroz Shah, a UN Champion of the Earth, who spearheaded the biggest beach cleanup in the world, says that his conservation instincts arose from seeing 5-feet plastic waste on the Versova beach in Mumbai.

“Plastic is not the problem, the plastic pollution done by the people is. Ocean conservation and waste management should be a collective effort both at an individual and group level.” Speaking of how people at an individual level can combat plastic disposal in the ocean, Afroz adds, “Cleanups serve as the eyes and ears of the ocean. At an individual level, consumers and manufacturers must try to reduce single waste plastic and multiple layers of plastic packaging. Segregate good and bad plastic for recycling and practice a circular economy for Mother Nature.” Afroz continues beach and mangrove cleanups across Mumbai. He also trains students in schools and colleges on ocean conservation.

Every Act Counts

Coral reefs are crucial to the ecosystems. It supports marine biodiversity, protects coastlines from erosion, and provides livelihoods for millions worldwide. Sadly, 27% of coral reefs are lost and 32% are at risk of being depleted (NASA Earth Observatory).

Uma Mani, a PADI-certified scuba diver (aka Coral Women) noticed the suffering of the ocean after she dived into the murky waters. “It was filled with sewage waste, plastic, trash, and diapers making it impossible to spot my fellow divers. The experience made me ask questions on the depleting health of the ocean and made me passionate to fight for coral reef conservation,” says Uma, who was named the ‘Earth Champion of the Month’ by Sony BBC Earth. As an eco-diver, Uma observes the dying and surviving coral reefs and paints her experience. “My paintings are sold in exhibitions wherein 50% of the proceeds are donated towards reef restoration,” she says. Uma fiercely advocates for ocean conservation through lectures and educates people. She urges people to donate to coral nurseries and practice appropriate waste management.  

A Clean-Sweep

Certified scuba instructor Subhash Chandran’s passion for eco-diving started when he found himself entangled in trash and plastic. Subhash and his team of divers at Platypus Escapes have spearheaded the cleanup of Visakhapatnam beaches. They even received an honorary mention from PM Modi for their efforts. “My team gives beautiful underwater ocean memories through scuba diving and opens people's eyes towards the polluted ocean. They get inspired and participate as eco divers or stop using plastic.” As eco divers, the group’s goal is coral replantation, raising awareness, training ocean keepers, and involving fishermen in ocean and beach cleanups.

Subhash and his team have so far spearheaded 114 days of ocean clean-up and have removed 1.76,833 kg of trash from the ocean. As individuals, active participation in cleanup efforts, reducing single plastic usage, engaging in impactful conversations, and implementing appropriate waste management can go a long way in ensuring ocean conservation. Through collective efforts and sustainable living, we can implement comprehensive strategies, enforce regulations, and promote public awareness to safeguard marine ecosystems for current and future generations.

Sea-Changers

• Uma Mani, a certified scuba diver works for the conservation of coral reefs and the ocean

• Subash Chandran was felicitated by the PM for his efforts to clean the ocean

• Afroz Shah, a UN Champion of the Earth organised the world’s largest beach cleanup in Versova

• Parineeti Chopra scuba dives to collect garbage and debris from the ocean

• Sonakshi Sinha spearheads beach and ocean cleanup drives

Water Disgrace

15,343 tonne waste dumped in the South Asian seas is from 60 Indian cities (UNEP)

Coral reefs in the Indian Ocean are at ‘high risk’ of collapse in 50 years due to overfishing and global heating (Nature Sustainability Journal)

As eco divers, our goal is coral replantation, raising awareness, training ocean keepers, and involving fishermen in ocean and beach cleanups.” — Subhash Chandran,

scuba instructor, founder, Platypus Escapes

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