National Geographic Launches Ganga Expedition to Beat Plastic Pollution

The National Geographic is launching an all-female expedition team to study plastic pollution in River Ganga. The Sea to Source: Ganges River Expedition is an attempt by National Geographic to better understand plastic waste in sea and to fill critical knowledge gaps around plastic flow, load and composition.

The expedition will offer a unique and unprecedented opportunity to scientifically document plastic waste in a watershed and develop holistic and inclusive solutions. The expedition is being conducted in partnership with Wildlife Institute of India, University of Dhaka and WildTeam.

Single-use plastic waste is a menacing global issue. The ocean is clogged with an estimated 9 million tons 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.

The latter aims to significantly reduce the amount of single-use plastic that reaches the ocean. “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,” said Valerie Craig, Vice President of operating programs at the National Geographic Society.

The expedition team of 15 scientists and engineers is co-led by National Geographic Fellows Jenna Jambeck and Heather Koldewey. They will work with international partners to provide science-based, actionable information to build capacity for local solutions. Jambeck and Koldewey will be joined by National Geographic Explorers Emily Duncan, Imogen Napper and Lillygol Sedaghat, and an international team from the Indian Institute of Technology, the University of Dhaka, the University of Exeter, the University of Georgia, the University of Plymouth, WII, WildTeam, Zoological Society of London and other institutions.

“We are optimistic and excited about the partnership with the National Geographic Society, which builds upon the major initiative currently being undertaken by the scientists and researchers of WII for the Biodiversity Conservation and Ganga Rejuvenation project under the National Mission for Clean Ganga,” said Dr. Mathur, Director of Dehradun-based WII.

“The University of Dhaka is happy to collaborate with National Geographic on this important project,” said Professor Dr. Md. Akhtaruzzaman, Vice Chancellor of the University of Dhaka. “We look forward to working with the expedition team to help reduce plastic pollution in our region and beyond.”

The Sea to Source: Ganges 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 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.

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; and the first time this interdisciplinary team has integrated innovative technology to better understand plastic waste and inform solutions.

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This article has been written by a member of the Delhi Greens Blog's dedicated team of writers and researchers from across Delhi NCR, India and the world.

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