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India’s marine litter problem


  • GS 3:Environmental Pollution & Degradation

In News

The Central Pollution Control Board estimates that India generates 55 million tonnes of municipal waste annually, of which only 37% is treated. The Central Pollution Control Board estimates that India generates 55 million tonnes of municipal waste annually, of which only 37% is treated.


• The mismanagement of plastic waste has led to the accumulation of municipal solid waste as a result of a growing population, rapid urbanisation, shifting consumption patterns, and changing lifestyles.

• The majority of these items, especially those made of plastic, contribute significantly to the growing burden of marine debris.

• The majority of plastic in water originates from sources on land.

• Unaccounted for urban waste is transported by river systems to the oceans for final disposal.

• The improper management of plastic waste generated in coastal cities and urban centres is causing it to enter water bodies.

Do you Know?

  • The length of India’s coastline is 7,517 kilometres. It encompasses eight states and a 2.02 million-square-kilometer Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
  • The population of India’s eight coastal states is 420 million. About 330 million reside on or within 150 kilometres of a coast.
    • Coastal districts are home to approximately 14.2% of the nation’s total population.
    • o Approximately 95% by volume and 68% by value of India’s trade is conducted via waterways. • India’s coastline contributes to its ecological diversity, biodiversity, and economy..

Concerns and Challenges 

  • Each year, thousands of tonnes of waste consisting of plastics, glass, metals, sanitary products, clothing, etc. are dumped along the country’s coast.
  • However, approximately sixty percent of the marine debris that reaches the oceans consists of plastics.
  • Marine debris is dispersed throughout the entire water column. The spread of sediments from creeks/rivers/estuaries into coastal waters during the monsoon results in an abundance of sediments, according to research.
  • Globally, marine litter endangers ecosystems and negatively impacts the fishing and tourism industries.
  • In addition to having a negative effect on the economy, micro-plastics and the risk of particles entering the food chain pose a threat to public health.
  • Animals can easily become entangled in plastic bags or abandoned fishing gear, or they may mistake plastic for food, thus introducing it into the food chain.


  • Through its attached office National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR), the Ministry of Earth Sciences has conducted periodic beach clean-up initiatives, awareness programmes, and beach litter quantification studies.
  • Notable are the efforts made by some organisations to rescue marine species from the debris. The Chennai-based non-profit TREE Foundation has been tirelessly working on this.
  • India and Germany signed an agreement on “Cities combating the introduction of plastic into marine environments.”
  • The British-India Interaction: The Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom and India reached an agreement on a “Roadmap 2030” that outlines an ambitious framework for UK and India partnerships in a variety of scientific fields, including marine science.

Suggestions for managing marine litter in a better way.

• The 2018-announced National Marine Litter Policy of India should be formulated.

• A distribution and characterization study of marine litter and microplastics should be conducted along the Indian coastline.

• A forum of coastal cities should be established to ensure a cross-learning ecosystem and to create a synergistic association of coastal urban local bodies and local administration.

• A long-term vision plan for promoting partnerships between coastal towns, cities, and urban administration for the reduction of marine litter and the creation of sustainable waste management ecosystems should be developed.

    • Rather than annually, beach cleanup and education programmes should be conducted on a consistent basis.

Mains Practise Question 

[Q] India is currently grappling with the marine debris crisis, which poses grave threats to its incredibly rich marine biodiversity. Comment