The South Asian Seas (SAS) region can be categorized into two distinct geographical groups. While Maldives and Sri Lanka are island nations, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan are situated on the Asian mainland.
The region has some of the largest and biologically rich marine ecosystems, such as the Gulf of Mannar, Atolls of Maldives and Mangroves of Sundarbans. The presence of perennial rivers such as the Brahmaputra, Ganges, Godavari, Indus, Kelani, Magna, etc. have contributed to large networks of backwaters, estuaries, salt marshes and mangroves.
The SAS also provides habitats for endangered marine turtles, for example the Green and Olive Ridley turtles. Some of the largest coastal lagoons of the world such as Chilka Lake in India and Puttalam lagoon in Sri Lanka are located within the region. It has one of the world's finest coral ecosystems, with atolls constituting the entire country of Maldives.
The Lakshadweep and Nicobar group of islands of India and a few regions of Sri Lanka have fringing reefs. But if the marine environment of South Asian Seas is remarkable, the environmental problem the region faces are all too mundane: expanding human populations, oil transport across the Arabian Sea, heavy use of agricultural and industrial chemichals, harmful fishing practices, and ill-planned land use.
These pressures have destroyed important habitat, driven many wildlife species near to extinction and altogether compromised the future of the people.
The South Asian Seas Action Plan (SASAP) was adopted in March 1995.
The South Asia Cooperative Environment Programme (SACEP) is acting as the Action Plan secretariat.
South Asian Seas Action Plan (SASAP) focuses on Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM), oil-spill contingency planning, human resource development and the environmental effects of land-based activities. Although there is no regional convention yet, SASAP follows existing global environmental and maritime conventions and considers Law of the Sea as its umbrella convention.
In addition, the region faces a particular problem; the risk of losing a member country, namely, the Maldives due to changing climate and rising seas which looms large on the horizon.