The night of August 18, 2019 had residents of Chennai enthralled. A night stroll on the Elliot’s Beach turned out to be unforgettable as visitors saw a blue light glimmering the waves that crashed on the shore.
It was later reported that the Noctiluca algae (commonly known as sea tinkle) were responsible for the magical blue glow on the waves.
While the algae-produced light was fascinating, the reasons behind the sudden emergence of these microscopic organisms is a cause for concern. The sea tinkles in Chennai in 2019 were more than just a treat to the eye. They were reminders of what our activities have wrought.
A rapid increase or accumulation of algae is called an algal bloom. Sewage drainage into water bodies, deforestation, runoff of fertilizers and pesticides, etc. – all these increase the quantity of nutrients present in water bodies. The result? Rapid growth of algae. Rising temperatures of water bodies due to global warming also contributes to surges in the algae populations.
Do algae blooms harm oceans and other water bodies? The sad answer is yes, they do. Massive algae population explosions not only highlight rising pollution and global warming levels, they also impact the environment adversely. By releasing toxins in the water, making water unfit for utilization, and depriving aquatic life from oxygen and sunlight, algal blooms are a dangerous threat to aquatic ecosystems.
Algal blooms have occurred time and again since the early 2000s. In the Northern Arabian Sea, these blooms have been reported annually. The smallest state of India, Goa, and the city of Mumbai too have witnessed such sightings.
The negative consequences of human activities on the environment are aplenty – algal blooms are just one of them. Their repeated occurrences point out to the bleak future we are determinedly pursuing.