Waste Management – SWM Rules, EWM Rules, etc

Marine Plastic Waste Problem of India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Marine Plastic pollution

Mains level: Marine Plastic pollution, reasons and initiatives by Government



  • India generates 55 million tonnes of municipal waste, of which only 37 per cent is treated, according to the Central Pollution Control Board. Only 60 per cent of the total collected plastic waste is recycled, while the fate of the remaining 40 per cent is not accounted.

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Geographical location and trade of India

  • Huge coastline: India has a coastline spanning 7,517 kilometres. It is spread across eight states and borders a 2.02 million square kilometre of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
  • Large coastal population: India’s eight coastal states house a population of 420 million. Of this, about 330 million live on or within 150 km of a coast. Three in four metro cities of the country are located on the coast. Coastal districts are home to nearly 14.2 per cent of the country’s total population.
  • High trade waters and oceans: Around 95 per cent of India’s trade by volume and 68 per cent by value is executed through waterways.

Reasons for marine Plastic pollution

  • Rapid urbanization and changing lifestyle: Growing population, rapid urbanisation, shifting consumption pattern and changing lifestyles have resulted in the mismanagement of plastic waste, leading to the accumulation of municipal solid waste.
  • Most plastic through land-based source: Most of these items, especially plastic items, contribute significantly to the growing burden of marine debris. Land-based sources account for most of the plastic in the water.
  • Unfiltered waste carried by rivers: Unaccounted waste from urban agglomerations is carried by river systems to oceans for final dumping.
  • High percentage of dumping of garbage: The country’s coastline contributes to its ecological richness, biodiversity and economy. Every year, thousands of tonnes of garbage, composed of plastics, glass, metals, sanitary products, clothes, etc., are dumped into it. However, plastics contribute a major portion of about 60 per cent of the total marine debris that reaches the oceans.

Initiatives by Government

  • Beach clean-up initiatives: The Ministry of Earth Sciences, through its attached office National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR), has undertaken beach clean-up initiatives, awareness programmes and beach litter quantification studies at regular intervals.
  • Scientific study on marine pollution: Many studies have been conducted across coastal states and U Territories Puducherry, Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep. NCCR has initiated monitoring of the temporal and spatial distribution of marine litter along the Indian coasts and adjacent seas in 2018, 2019 and 2021.
  • Swachh Sagar, Surakshit Sagar campaign: An average of 0.98 metric tonnes of trash per km stretch of coastline, averaging a weight concentration of 0.012 kilograms per metre square, accumulated along the Indian coastline, noted Swachh Sagar, Surakshit Sagar campaign, 2022.
  • Attempt by TREE foundation: Attempts made by some organisations in rescuing marine species from the debris are worth mentioning. TREE Foundation, a Chennai-based non-profit, has been incessantly working on this. Their efforts on this front have shed light on the magnitude of the problem of ghost nets.
  • Stakeholders approach: Over the last 20 years, through a multi-disciplinary approach involving people from all sections of society particularly unemployed youth from artisanal fishing communities, the foundation has saved and released more than 3,101,000 Olive Ridley turtles.

What should be the way forward?

  • National Marine litter Policy of India: The National Marine litter Policy of India, announced in 2018, should be formulated.
  • Plastic distribution study: Marine litter and microplastics distribution and characterization study should be conducted across the Indian coast.
  • Coastal city forum: A forum of coastal cities should be created for ensuring cross-learning ecosystem and to build a synergetic association of urban local bodies and local administration located on the coast.
  • Long term vision plan: A long-term vision plan should be developed for promoting partnerships among coastal towns, cities and urban administration for the reduction of marine litter and the creation of sustainable waste management ecosystems. Initiatives like a multi-stakeholder approach that will recognize knowledge, expertise, technology, research, capacity building and advocacy as key drivers to safeguard life below water can be beneficial.
  • Awareness campaign: Regular beach clean-up and awareness programmes should be conducted instead of annual ones.
  • Effective ban: Many states claim Single Use Plastic above 50 microns is banned, but on the ground, the ban is not effective. Steps can be taken to execute such legislations.


  • Marine plastic pollution is killing the marine ecosystem, animals, plants and corals etc. apart from ocean trade land based plastic generation should be priorities while managing the marine pollution. Present approach of governments across the world is less than sufficient to tackle marine pollution.

Mains Question

Q. What are some of the initiatives to tackle the marine pollution in India? suggest the way forward to handle the menace of marine pollution.

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