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Environment: study, Mediterranean facing irreversible damage

Region polluted by 730 tonnes of plastic waste every day

23 October, 16:26
(ANSA) - BELGRADE, 23 OTT - The Mediterranean basin is facing an "irreversible environmental damage" due to "rising inequality, biodiversity loss, the growing impact of climate change and unrelenting pressure on natural resources," a new report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) shows.

According to the study "The State of the Environment and Development in the Mediterranean", the Mediterranean region is suffering from eight major threats. Climate change is affecting the Mediterranean significantly more than the world average, population densities in coastal areas have continued to increase at a record pace in the past decade and pollution measured in particular in urban and port areas are well beyond standards.

Moreover, lack of water supply and wastewater treatment facilities is having a negative impact in particular on the southern and eastern Mediterranean basin. Furthermore, around 730 tonnes of plastic waste end up daily in the sea. The basin is home to more than 512 million people and "one of the world's most coveted tourism destinations and one of its busiest shipping routes." The study underlines also the negative consequences from fisheries, which "represent the number one threat to fish populations in the Mediterranean Sea" and the use of fossils fuels that "overall dominate energy supply in the Mediterranean region, with heavy environmental and health impacts." Finally, "excessive use of chemical and pharmaceutical products generate increasing concerns, particularly in northern Mediterranean countries," the study reads.

According to the research, 15 per cent of deaths in the Mediterranean region are attributable to preventable environmental factors. In 2016, more than 228,000 people died prematurely from exposure to air pollution in the Mediterranea basin, the report reveals.

"The report's findings can guide a green renaissance in the Mediterranean," but it is necessary to embark on "greener development paths" that can halt "the environmental degradation trends and salvage hard-won achievements in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals," said Gaetano Leone, Coordinator of the UNEP/MAP-Barcelona Convention Secretariat.

"If we want to protect the Mediterranean for present and future generations, we can no longer afford piecemeal steps. We must embark on drastic changes in our relationship with nature," said François Guerquin, Director of Plan Bleu, a regional activity centre of the UNEP Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP) that produced the report. (ANSA).

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