By Michael Kenwood, Local Democracy Reporting Service
BANGOR in North Down has been chosen as the Northern Ireland base for an international project looking at plastic pollution in the sea.
The project is a joint enterprise between the UK and Indian governments, with each chosen location in the four parts of the UK twinned with an Indian city.
Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs contacted Ards North Down Borough Council to discuss Bangor as a leading the fight against marine pollution.
Funding will come from central government in Whitehall, with no extra budget contributions required from the council.
At this week’s council Environment Committee meeting, councillors agreed to approve Bangor’s involvement in the project, known as the UK-India Marine Litter Twin Cities Partnership. The kick-off event will be in January 2021, and evidence gathering will start in February.
Bangor will twin with Panaji, the largest city in the state of Goa, and will focus on seabird health, and the pollutant effects of fishing gear, rubber gloves, and single use plastics. Meanwhile Glasgow will twin with Mumbai, and Aberystwyth with Kochi in Kerala.
The UK’s Clean Growth strategy focuses on plastic pollution, a priority shared with the Indian government. Up to 90 percent of marine litter is made out of plastics, originating from both land and sea-based sources.
A report from Ards North Down Council’s Environment Committee states: “Plastic pollution is one of the most widespread problems facing our oceans today. If we are to tackle this issue, urgent, coordinated and effective action is paramount.”
Key objectives of the project are to promote engagement between scientists, innovators and policymakers, to highlight one or two specific priorities, and for shared monitoring and evidence gathering in managing the problem.
There will be at least two joint studies and visits, remote or otherwise, between twins, and annual conferences.
Ards North Down Mayor, Councillor Trevor Cummings told his council’s Environment Committee: “I’m absolutely delighted to see this proposal come before the committee. I think it’s an exciting opportunity which elevates the role of council from local to global in many aspects.
“I think it’s a recognition too of the unique position of ourselves as custodians of the 115 miles of coastline that we have around us, and it follows the pioneering seabin project here, which was very successful.
“It allows the opportunity to work along with world leading researchers in developing realistic and feasible solutions, to reduce ocean waste, and that can only serve to benefit the borough as a whole.”