Evaluating the Impacts of Marine Pollution on Ecosystem Services and Human Health: A Data Analysis of Ecological and Economic Indicators in Indonesia

An article by Voice of America (VOA) alleged that the United States had a higher contribution to ocean plastic pollution than was estimated previously. The findings revealed that the U.S. was the top plastic producer globally with approximately 42 million metric tons, of which 2.2 million metric tons ended up being plastic waste. This placed the country as the 20th largest contributor to marine pollution with plastic waste.

However, one of the top 10 countries leading in marine pollution with plastic waste is Indonesia which has about 4.9 million tons of plastic waste. According to the World Bank (2021), it is estimated that by 2025 Indonesia will be generating about 7.8 million tons of plastic waste annually. By exploring the marine pollution in Indonesia, the United States and other countries can gain some insight that can help control ocean pollution since it is a health hazard to humanity and aquatic life.

Indonesia is a southeastern Asian country made up of over 17,000 islands bordering the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the main economic activity is mining and fishing. However, the persistent increase in anthropogenic activities in the Indonesian coastal waters has resulted in a surge in marine pollution that has presented a momentous threat to both ecosystem services and human health (Sodik, 2020). Given that oceans are a crucial habitat for aquatic life, it is important to understand how it affects sustainable living.

It is important to note that marine ecosystems offer a multitude of services essential for human subsistence and prosperity including fisheries, climate regulation, coastal protection, recreational sites, and economic opportunities (Landrigan et al., 2020). Oceans play a significant role in sustaining life and supporting ecological balance, notable importance relate to numerous ecological, economic, and social functions.

Oceans support biodiversity and ecosystem services, climate regulation, recreation and tourism, cultural and aesthetic value, and economic importance (Jatnika et al., 2021).


Source: Google.com images 

Nevertheless, pollution in the Indonesian coastal waters has been an insistent challenge due to the discharge of pollutants like oil spills, chemical contaminants, and plastics that exude a severe threat to services supported by marine ecosystems. Additionally, the consequences related to marine pollution extend past ecological concerns to include issues that significantly affect human health. Polluted recreational beaches, ingestion of microplastics, and contaminated seafood contribute to a wide range of health issues, ranging from chronic diseases to foodborne illnesses (Campagne et al., 2023).

With the continued reliance by the human population on marine resources for recreation and sustenance in the region, the necessity to assess and develop mitigation strategies for these health risks remains increasingly urgent. It is crucial to understand the magnitude of these disruptions for the formulation of effective management and conservation strategies for marine ecosystems.

Therefore, the complex interplay between environmental degradation and its related consequences demands a comprehensive assessment to recognize the full scope of the associated impacts (Campanale et al., 2020). This research paper explored the Impacts of marine pollution on ecosystem services and human health by focusing on ecological and economic indicators in Indonesia.

Pollution can be defined as the release of unwanted waste to land, water, and air through human activity, it is considered the prime environmental cause of sickness and disease globally today. Pollution is attributed to being responsible for approximately nine million premature deaths annually, human capital erosion, ecosystem degradation, and enormous economic losses.

Research shows that ocean pollution is an imperative aspect that is insufficiently documented and inadequately controlled when exploring global pollution. Thus, it has been recognized that marine pollution poses grave threats to the health and well-being of humanity. In the recent past, the magnitude and nature of the associated impacts of ocean pollution have begun to be understood and more focus has been directed towards the matter (Yose, Thondhlana, & Fraser, 2023).

Marine pollution in Indonesia has been a noteworthy environmental challenge that has threatened the nation's diverse marine ecosystems and the welfare of its coastal communities. Some of the key marine pollution avenues in Indonesia include plastic pollution, illegal dumping and discharge, oil spills, destructive fishing practices, and coral reef degradation. Due to the adverse effects of ocean pollution, there is of dire need to deeply examine the recognized and potential consequences of marine pollution on ecosystem services and human health in Indonesia (Sodik, 2020).

The findings would enlighten government agencies, policymakers, and the global public about the related threats, as well as recommending priorities for intervention to prevent and control marine pollution in a manner that safeguards human health (Anyanwu et al., 2023). Ocean plastic pollution remains a health hazard and a critical issue of environmental degradation posing a monumental threat to sustainability and existence; the annual ocean plastic waste by country is outlined in the table below.

Furthermore, it I important to note that Indonesia experiences a rapid flow called Indonesian Through-flow  (ITF) which is the incessant blowing of trade Winds and generated currents. The volume of the flow is quick and becomes unwieldy in units referred to as Sverdrup, a flow of one million cubic meters per second. Hence, the Indonesian Trough Flow is estimated as 15 Sv which is like 15,000 rivers of about 1500 km wide that is 10 meters deep and flows fast at 2 knots (Okdivers, 2014).

With such a massive flow in the Indonesian coastline, there is a likelihood that plastic waste can be blown further into the ocean to contaminate a larger portion and advance marine pollution. Hence, it is important to conduct focused reviews that scrutinize the impact of marine pollution on human health, recognize knowledge gaps, predict future trends, and provide evidence-based guidelines for effective mitigation (Lestari & Trihadiningrum, 2019).


Fig #1
Annual Ocean Plastic Waste

The annual ocean plastic waste in metric tons as shown in the graph above shows that Indonesia is among the leading contributors of ocean pollution as it relates to ocean plastic waste disposal. The Philippines is the top country in annual ocean plastic waste with 346,371 metric tons compared to 46,333 metric tons disposed by Indonesia.


Table #1
Annual Plastic Waste in Metric Tonnes


The data in the table above shows that Indonesia is among the leading countries with the highest coastal population of 187,223,476 people. Although Indonesia has a relatively lower waste generation rate (0.5) concerning other comparable countries, it is among the highest in terms of the percentage of inadequately managed waste.

This is an indicator that the country needs better waste management strategies to reduce the amount of waste released to the ocean that leads to pollution. The mismanaged plastic waste in Indonesia in 2010  was 3,216,856 tons but it is projected that it will increase to 7,415,202 tons by 2025. This trend illustrates that the mismanaged plastic waste will have doubled, making the country one of the leading polluters of plastic waste. The mismanaged plastic waste ends up in water bodies after being swept by floods, this is a threat to the existence of human beings and aquatic life.


 Fig. #2
Plastic Consumption by Sectors

Findings on plastic consumption in the Indonesian plastics market in terms of sectors showed that Packaging was the largest segment with application accounting for 49.6 percent, construction had 16 percent, automotive had 6.8 percent, electrical, electronic, and telecom accounted for 5 percent, and 22.6 percent was consumed in other sectors.

Given that the Packaging sector was the greatest use of plastics explains why plastics were the leading pollutant of the Indonesian environment. Government agencies need to raise awareness on recycling and proper disposal of plastic waste to preserve the environment and reduce health risks associated with pollution.


Fig. #3

Marine Debris

Data exploring 6 regions in Indonesia namely Seribu Islands, Banten, South Java, Biawak Islands, Misool, and the Savu Sea revealed that some of the marine debris found in the coastline comprised plastic bottles, grocery bags, plastic food wrappers, plastic cups, plastic wrapper, spoons, glass bottles, foam packaging, and bulbs.

The dominant debris noted were plastics and rubbers denoted as plastic bags at 35.08 percent, Woods classified as Cigarettes buds stood at 15.87 percent, Glasses were denoted as Glass bottles were 4.26%, Fabrics represented as Diapers and Tampons were 1.07%, and Others signified Condoms were 0.36%. This is an illustration that the greatest pollutant of the Indonesian coastline was plastics.


Impact of Pollution

Table #2

Number of villages polluted by water pollution

The findings reveal that the provinces with the highest number of villages polluted by water pollution included West Java (1890), Central Java (1900), and East Java (1643) to illustrate that the Java region had the highest water pollution levels. On the other hand, the province with the lowest number of villages polluted by water pollution consisted of Kep. Riau (55) and DI Yogyakarta (99). This can be explained to mean that these regions had lower water pollution compared to other regions. The findings in the table can be used to determine the level of pollution across Indonesia in a manner that can assist in determining the areas that need intervention for the control and prevention of water pollution.

Health Impact of Marine Pollution in Indonesia

The health impacts of marine pollution in Indonesia are complicated since they affect both the marine ecosystems and the well-being of the communities in the coastal regions since they heavily depend on marine resources. Some of the health issues noted among the Indonesian population include contaminated seafood, waterborne diseases, respiratory and dermatological issues, loss of livelihoods, social and mental health, and challenges in healthcare infrastructure.

Contaminated Seafood

Ocean pollution can be due to numerous pollutants including heavy metals, chemicals, toxins, and microplastics that are released into the water. There is a high likelihood of the contaminants accumulating in seafood and pose risks to human health after consumption. These contaminated seafoods can lead to a wide array of health issues that comprise poisoning, foodborne illnesses, and longstanding health effects.

Waterborne Diseases

Marine pollution can also originate from industrial discharges and untreated sewage when released to coastal waters, this causes an increased risk of contaminating the waters by pathogens, viruses, and bacteria that can cause waterborne diseases. The polluted water is associated with illnesses like gastroenteritis and other waterborne infections.

Respiratory and Dermatological Issues:

Marine pollution by oil spills caused by industrial operations and maritime activities releases destructive hydrocarbons into coastal waters and the marine environment. When such waters with those substances come into skin contact or are inhaled, one can contract skin irritations and respiratory problems.

Loss of Livelihoods

Coastal communities in Indonesia depend to a greater extent on marine resources for their livelihoods by engaging in economic activities like fishing and tourism. Increased marine pollution has a likelihood of declining fish stocks, decreasing tourism, and damaging coral reefs; this has a negative direct impact on the economic health of individuals living in these communities. Moreover, the degradation of marine environments results in the loss of livelihoods that can negatively affect the social and mental health of individuals in coastal communities. Hence, the uncertainty about the future, economic stress, and extinction of cultural practices on marine activities can have a negative impact on the mental welfare of the affected individuals.

Challenges in Healthcare Infrastructure

The consequences of marine pollution in coastal areas of Indonesia can challenge the health systems in the region due to the health challenges faced in the communities due to illness and the rate of sickness caused by marine pollution. Additionally, limited access to healthcare infrastructure in some remote areas can hinder effective treatment and have detrimental health challenges.

Hence, efforts to alleviate the health consequences of marine pollution in Indonesia entail a combination of mitigation interventions that consist of pollution prevention, sustainable resource management practices, improved waste management, community engagement, and governmental regulations. Collaboration of non-governmental organizations, government agencies, community social workers, and international partners can be vital in addressing the multifaceted health challenges linked with marine pollution in Indonesia.


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