The current BBC series ‘Indian Ocean‘ is clearly showing the devastating effect of human population growth and ‘development’ on the Indian Ocean.
The programme is straight out of the traditional Michael Palin travelogue mode, albeit presented by a tousled younger version, Simon Reeve. Its a bit Blue Peterish at times but uncovers some scarey scenes including traditional Mumbai fishermen living in the shadow (literally and metaphorically – their rights are ignored and they live in the waste and litter of the new tower blocks next door). The number of Indian fishing boats is increasing – thanks largely to government subsidies – and they’re travelling further to catch fish to feed growing populations. Its the classic tragedy of the commons in full effect.
The Maldivian coral reefs that provide the nurseries for fish (and sea defences) are dying from coral bleaching caused by rising sea temperatures although there are valiant attempts to grow more reef on man-made frames and pole and line-caught tuna is being sold in UK supermarkets. Some of the most shocking footage came from the Maldives rubbish island where oil and chemical drums leaked into the porous coral and rubbish was burnt indiscriminately.
The programme clearly shows that – unless radically new models of development are found – the Indian Ocean is heading for Paradise Lost status.