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Enhancing the Sustainability of the Marine Coastal Environment (RCA)

Project Number: RAS/7/011


In general, this project will enhance the quality of life in the coastal zone through the application of nuclear techniques in addressing problems associated with ameliorating effects of historical pollution and minimizing impact of effluent released in coastal zone. The specific objectives are to update and maintain the Asia Pacific Marine Radioactivity Database (ASPAMARD); discern organic sources of pollution using stable isotope measurement and classifying pollutant loadings; and support Member States to incorporate receptor binding assay (RBA) with suitable quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) systems in their national monitoring programme.


The proposed project is designed to build on the achievements of the joint United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)/Regional Co-operative Agreement (RCA)/IAEA project RAS 97/030 "Better Management of the Environment, Natural Resources and Industrial Growth though Isotope and Radiation Technology". Activities under the marine coastal environment subproject were implemented under RAS/8/083 "Management of Marine Coastal Environmental Pollution" funded by Australia, RAS/8/080 "Better Management of the Environment and Industry through Isotope and Radiation Techniques, Component 1 on Marine Pollution" funded by UNDP, and under RAS/8/076 "Better Management of Environment and Industrial Growth" funded by the Agency and Member States.
The central problem being addressed is the origin of unwanted material and consequences of its unplanned redistribution within the coastal zone. The unwanted materials may be organic or radioactive pollutants, toxins, or sands and sediments. The unplanned redistribution may result from natural or engineered processes. Particular attention, where appropriate, will be paid to the impact of major events such as storms and cyclones on these processes. The solution to the problem will be the development of robust management tools or enhanced capabilities, firstly to alleviate and then to turn such situations around. Often, the management tools will involve the development of numerical models of ecosystem behaviour, which will be validated using nuclear-related techniques.
The three components of the project and brief achievements to date are:

i) extension and application of the marine database (ASPAMARD),
ii) fate and behaviour of pollutants, and
iii) harmful algal bloom (HAB) concerns.

Marine database: Under the current project, a database (ASPAMARD) on marine radioactivity in selected seas has been developed which is incorporated in the Global Marine Radioactivity Database (GLOMARD). Many of the coastlines in the Asian region are pristine and have great value as eco-tourist destinations. Baseline data are required to benchmark the impacts of development including possible unplanned releases of radioactivity within and beyond national borders.
Fate and behaviour of pollutants: A number of areas within the region are severely polluted with organic pollutants of industrial and domestic (including sewage) origin. These polluted zones may include mangrove swamps and fish-spawning zones, as well as areas of recreational potential. Nuclear techniques could also be used to study (a) transport of greases and other planned or unplanned hydrocarbon discharges; (b) impact of mariculture discharges on the coastal environment; or (c) dispersion of naturally occurring radioactive materials from off-shore oil and gas rigs.
Harmful algal blooms: The uptake by shellfish of toxins exuded from the algae leads to attacks on the human nervous systems causing Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning (ASP), Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP), or Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning (NSP), which results in illness and possibly even death. A number of areas within the region are affected with severe economic consequences to the local fishing industry. Under the current project, a rapid, reliable, and accurate assay (RBA), which has been developed under a national TC project in the Philippines, is being transferred to Malaysia, Pakistan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

National Commitment:

Marine database: Participating Member States (Australia, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Viet Nam) will supply the data and Philippines through the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) will maintain the ASPAMARD database.
Fate and behaviour of pollutants: Two Member States will provide demonstration sites to identify source and distribution of organic pollutants in the coastal zone.
Harmful algal bloom: PNRI will provide assistance in producing the labelled saxitoxin to carry out the RBA intercomparison for saxitoxin planned next year under an interregional project; China, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Thailand will set up laboratories for running the assay.
Additionally, for regional events, the host country will provide its facilities and other resources to ensure the successful implementation of the events.

Agency Input:

This will include expert services, financial and administrative support to organize regional events, and some minor equipment and supplies.

Performance Indicators:

An updated ASPAMARD for GLOMARD and an assessment of its application to pollution transport studies.
Result of investigations on behaviour and fate of enhanced radionuclides from offshore wells, and demonstration of radiotracer techniques to understand behaviour of organic pollutants at two sites.
Written protocols incorporating the RBA technique in national screening programmes and successful completion of comparison exercises among participating countries.

Expected Results:

The updated ASPAMARD will be incorporated in the GLOMARD and published.
The demonstration studies will lead to understanding on the behaviour and fate of organic and enhanced radionuclides.
The RBA will be produced and used in the participating countries for routine monitoring.

Project Impact:

In the short term, the availability of a reference database on marine radioactivity can be a guide in the development of eco-touristic coastal zone areas. Successful results in understanding the behaviour and fate of organic pollutants as well as naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) in selected sites would lead to (a) better awareness of their impact, (b) triggering actions by concerned authorities to mitigate any negative impact of current practices that lead to such pollution, and (c) wider applications of the technique in other areas. The use of RBA will improve the HAB warning system and monitoring of HABs, thereby minimizing, if not avoiding, the onset of deadly episodes that could lead to human illness.