Combating Plastic Pollution in the Sundarbans



The Sundarbans is one of the most expansive mangrove forests thriving out of the world’s largest river delta, the Ganges- Brahmaputra Delta. The region is also a Biosphere Reserve, a National Park and Tiger Reserve in addition to being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s beautiful dense forest made up of various species of mangrove vegetation which is the natural habitat of numerous animals, such as crocodiles, deer, birds and of course the Royal Bengal Tiger which attract many visitors from all over the world every year.
Looking beyond the natural beauty and resources of the region, Sundarbans supports a population of about 4.37 million with a density of 1082 person per square km within the deltaic region which is crisscrossed by major rivers along with their tributaries and creeks, which flow out to the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. The change in weather pattern amplified by tidal surges and rise in sea level is starting to pose a grave threat to the existence of the region. In addition, the direct impact of such a high burden of population is pollution, more predominantly that from plastic waste, continually generated and disposed of in the adjoining water bodies of Sundarbans which drain into the ocean, contributing to the global menace of ocean plastic.

Littering of plastic items is therefore a major environmental threat to the area and the constant influx of visitors compounds the problem further. While locals and tourists continue to litter, rag pickers do not receive any special incentive to collect all the plastic items in an organized and comprehensive manner which in leads to a lack of effort towards bringing down the level of pollution in the region.

The project and its objectives:

The project aims at organizing impoverished rag-pickers of the Sundarbans to collect, sort and systematically process plastic waste. It is supported by Röchling Stiftung, a foundation based in Germany.

In January 2018 a baseline study has been initiated by SOCEO in order to estimate the volume & composition of the plastic waste in the project’s target area, the existing collection mechanism, the collection rate and the existing value chain.

Subsequently, the main activities of the project were launched based on the findings of the study. The project includes awareness and promotional activities in the community and the commercial establishments about the pressing issue of plastic waste, training the waste-pickers and the project team in plastic waste management and entrepreneurship in order to develop a community-based sustainable plastic waste management system.


Pradipta Basu is the main researcher of this project and the project coordinator. He holds a Master of Science Degree in Civil Engineering with specialisation in Environmental Engineering of Texas A&M University, USA. Before joining SOCEO, he worked for several NGOs focusing mainly on environment.


Catching up to Stream of Plastic