Asia’s plastic-polluted rivers pose a problem for Australia. So scientists are turning to drones


It’s one of 10 rivers in the world that collectively contribute up to 95 per cent of plastic in the ocean.

Running for more than 4,000 kilometres, the Mekong River flows through six countries, starting in China and making its way through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

It is used by millions of people and is home to a rich ecosystem. But now its pollution problem poses an issue for the region and Australia.

“Plastic pollution that originates along a river like the Mekong, may make its way out to the sea, and ultimately — given winds and waves and currents — that could end up on Australian shores as well,” CSIRO principal research scientist Britta Denise Hardesty suggested.

“So whether you care about wildlife, whether you care about tourism or what’s in your own backyard, the global nature of this problem means something over the other side of the world could end up in your backyard.”

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, scientists were working on a global plastic pollution survey backed by the CSIRO at a number of sites around the world to see how the issue was impacting on river systems.

For months, researchers have been studying plastic pollution at five sites along the Mekong River in South-East Asia, and along the Ganges River in India.

Preliminary results released his week show the Mekong River is suffering the most from plastic bottles and plastic bags being dumped in or nearby the precious waterway.

Yet even with the preliminary data in, scientists concede there could be an even bigger task ahead., 1 June 2020