India-Norway Marine Initiatives cooperation can reduce pollution

October 17, 2022
India-Norway Marine Initiatives

Indian experts and scientists have worked for the last three years in collaboration with Norwegian scientists in building knowledge and capacity for reducing plastic and chemical pollution in India, implemented in Gujrat, India

New Delhi, October 17, 2022: In the last five years, India's plastic waste has more than doubled. In the absence of adequate systems for waste collection and management, the sharp increase implies that a lot of plastic waste from land ends up in the surrounding environment and the ocean. Adding to this, the plastic waste contains chemical additives and environmental toxins, including so- called persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which further increase the burden on the environment.

The India-Norway Marine Initiatives programme has been supported by the Norwegian Embassy in India and partnered with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India. Several projects have been supported under this initiative one of the prime projects being the Norwegian cooperation project on capacity building for reducing plastic and chemical pollution in India (INOPOL), implemented in Gujarat India.

INOPOL aimed to provide science-based knowledge in support of India's ambitious targets in terms of reducing plastic releases while enhancing efforts to implement the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). The project focused specifically on the presence of plastic pollution in the catchment areas of the rivers Tapi (Tapti) and Daman Ganga in the Gujarat state, along the cities of Surat and Vapi. Plastic pollution from land- based activities such as petrochemicals and industrial activities impacts these rivers. In the region (Surat and Vapi), waste generation is expected to increase significantly. It is estimated that Gujarat generates 3,56,873 tonnes of plastic waste each year, the second- largest in the country. In Gujarat, Ahmedabad and Surat are leading cities in plastic waste contribution. Plastic is captured by waste management, recycling, and industrial streams, however, it escapes and once it reaches rivers, it can have negative effects on marine ecosystems.

The INOPOL project has provided valuable knowledge and insights that India can use to achieve its ambitious environmental goals by reducing the amount of plastic and hazardous chemicals that cause great damage to people and the environment in the relevant areas, says project leader Eirik Hovland Steindal from the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA).

The project was implemented by Mu Gamma Consultants Pvt Ltd (MGC), Toxics Link (TL), SRM Institute of Science & Technology (SRMIST),the Central Institute of Petrochemicals Engineering & Technology (CIPET) and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in collaboration with Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA).

Some Key Findings

The teams’ researchers have analyzed samples of air, soil, sediments, cow's milk and fish in the area around the two rivers Tapi and Daman Ganga. The samples revealed a number of hazardous chemicals in the environment, including substances prohibited under the Stockholm Convention. The mapping of sources also shows that several of the POPs India has recently banned are still in circulation. The substances are used in agriculture, industry and products, the latter subsequently ending up as waste.

During the rainy season, the rainwater carries large amounts of plastic waste and microplastics into the rivers, which carry the plastic further into the sea. The INOPOL project mapped these fluxes through monitoring, laboratory analysis, and modeling. The project also studied the part of the plastic collection that is done by informal waste workers in Surat and Vapi. The findings provide important knowledge to Indian authorities, that can be used to strengthen the integration of this workforce by improving working and living conditions in the informal recycling sector.

Knowledge and competence

If India is to achieve its own ambitious environmental targets, international commitments, and the UN's sustainability goals, the country has to address its extensive pollution problem. The INOPOL project has looked at how monitoring and management tools can be used to enhance the management of plastic pollution, emissions of hazardous chemicals, and the negative impacts of such. As an important supplement to India's regulations and recently introduced bans on a number of the most harmful pollutants, INOPOL contributes to local capacity building, and new knowledge, and proposes control measures.

The project also identified key action points in Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and plastic wastes for the State of Gujarat. The key actions for POPs management include enhancing capacities and strengthening regulation, managing production, and use, identifying and managing POP stockpiles, managing contaminated sites, and managing knowledge. The main recommendations for plastic waste management include enhancing capacities, bridging the knowledge gaps, and integrating the informal recycling sector within the plastic waste management chain.

The knowledge from the INOPOL project will also provide the Indian government with scientific knowledge for the upcoming negotiations on the international agreement on plastic pollution, commencing in November.

Plastic waste
Waste management
Waste treatment