Protection the Marine Environment from Land-Based Sources of Pollution Towards Effective International Cooperation

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The most significant source of marine pollution is from land-based sources, with estimates indicating that it comprises around 80 per cent of all marine pollution. It is an issue of utmost concern. Dr Hassan provides an insight into the technical and legal issues surrounding land-based sources of pollution, and argues for a new international convention that will enhance cooperation, contribute to enhanced capacities and generate new solutions to this all too persistent problem. The bulk of the book looks at the strengths and weaknesses of the current international legal regime, and as such it is primarily directed at students of law.

After a short introduction, which sets out the issues and approach. Chapter 2 provides a basic and somewhat fragmented review of the technical aspects of land-based sources of pollution. There are invariably difficulties that arise when non-specialists attempt to review materials outside of their area of expertise, and this problem is, unfortunately, rather evident in Dr Hassans book. The review of the technical data and literature is neither comprehensive nor systematic. Social and natural scientists will find this review all too cursory and lacking in method. As lawyers, we are looking for a coherent and convincing synopsis of the state of play of science in respect of land-based sources of pollution. In particular, we need to know how science can inform and drive our social responses to issues. What we get is a rather eclectic set of data from a range of primary and secondary sources, which tends to be used to provide anecdotal support for the extent of the problem. Undoubtedly, the author is right to stress the extent of the problem, but the linkage between science and the regulation of a problem is much more sophisticated than appears in this chapter. The summary is short and uncon¬vincing, and it does not draw upon any analysis of the data. For example, he concludes that land-based sources of pollution have been shown to be the dominant source of pollution, without indicating the level of pollution from other sources.

In the next chapter Dr Hassan identifies a number of key problems in respect of the control of land-based sources of pollution. First, he stresses that any regulation needs a strong scientific underpinning, the data for which is lacking in practice. This problem is considered to be particularly acute for diffuse source pollution. The second problem relates to cost of controlling pollution. Pollution is expensive to control and frequently, in economic terms, externalised. Moreover, developing countries are reluctant to sacrifice development in favour of environmental protection. The third group of problems are 'legal'. To start with, there is an absence of any generally accepted threshold for determining an unacceptable level of pollution. Dr Hassan also alludes to the lack of a globally accepted pollution threshold, but fails to make the case for such a standard, which in any event seems altogether unrealistic and impractical. Pollution is diffuse and disparate in its sources. It has varying impacts on different marine environments. What may be a terminal level of pollution in the Baltic Sea would not necessarily be so serious in the high seas of the Atlantic Ocean. Would a global standard really accom¬plish anything? Our experience of global obligations in the law of the sea suggests that such a standard would be highly generalised and require more detailed and context-specific articulation to have any practical impact. Certainly there may be a role for international approaches to coordinate or influence regional approaches, but it is the latter that remain central to tackling land-based sources of pollution. The second legal issue pertains to sovereignty, which is rightly identified as a key problem. Simply put, sovereign States are reluctant to accept limitations on their right to control pollution, and, ultimately, because only the source State can act to stop the pollution, many obligations are rejected, watered-down, or ignored in practice. In light of this political fact, one might ask how a new treaty regime will overcome this obstacle. The author suggests that this is a detailed review, but it runs to a mere ten pages of commentary. This is all too brief, and it is not clear whether these problems are considered to be exhaustive or simply the most important obstacles to a solution, and even if one accepts that these concerns are critical, then the question is to what extent will international cooperation actually alleviate them.

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