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India, Australia, Singapore Explore Tech and Innovation to Address Marine Pollution

India, Australia, and Singapore are collaborating on research interventions to monitor and assess marine litter and plausible sustainable solutions to address the global marine plastic pollution issue. Delivering the keynote address at a virtual international workshop on combating marine pollution, focusing on marine plastic debris. The workshop brought together the world’s leading experts, scientists, government officials with policy expertise, and representatives from industry, innovation, and informal sectors. It was held on 14 and 15 February by India, in partnership with the Australian and Singapore governments.

India’s Secretary of Earth Sciences, Dr M. Ravichandran, suggested considering the application of technological tools such as remote sensing, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) to map the distribution of marine plastics and develop models to understand the dynamics of plastics in the Indian Ocean. He also emphasised that a well-designed and tailor-made management strategy considering regional distinctiveness will significantly reduce plastics in the environment, an Earth Sciences Ministry statement said.

According to reports, the event provided an impetus to East Asia Summit (EAS) countries to explore and inform each other about the challenges, questions, and solutions regarding marine litter. They discussed plastic research, use, design, disposal, recycling, and future collaborations for a plastic-free and healthy ocean for sustainable development through knowledge partners – India’s National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR), Singapore, and Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

The workshop sessions involved panel discussions and interactive break-out sessions to encourage discussion amongst participants from the EAS countries. It had four significant sessions: the magnitude of the marine litter problem-monitoring programme and research on plastic debris in the Indo-Pacific Region, best practices and technologies, solutions to prevent plastic pollution, and polymers and plastics: technology and innovations and opportunities for regional collaboration to remediate or stop plastic pollution. The EAS is the premier forum for discussions on important strategic issues in the Indo-Pacific and a leading confidence-building mechanism. Since its inception in 2005, it has advocated regional peace, security, closer regional cooperation, and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean region.

Recently, with increasing environmental concerns associated with petroleum-derived fuels, a team from the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras have begun using AI-based tools to study fuel production from biomass. As OpenGov Asia reported, the team used an ML method called recurrent neural networks (RNN) to study the reactions that occur during the conversion of biomass into energy-dense syngas (gasification of biomass). A researcher said that the technology is able to predict the composition of the biofuel produced as a function of the time the biomass spends in the reactor. The team used a statistical reactor for accurate data generation, which allows the model to be applied over a wide range of operating conditions. Computer simulations and modelling studies can provide quicker insights that can be used to build the processes and plants for biomass processing. In India currently, where about 750 million metric tonnes of biomass is available annually, biomass-derived fuel is particularly relevant.

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