Addressing sources of marine litter in the region

Forum on Plastic-Free Rivers in Asia: Reducing river plastic litter through science, policy, and citizen action

Virtual platform
8-10 March 2022

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), with the support of the Government of Japan, launched the CounterMEASURE project to strengthen scientific knowledge to determine the origins and pathways of plastic pollution in Asian river systems. The project particularly looks into the Mekong and Ganges rivers and selected locations in Sri Lanka. CounterMEASURE also aims to foster policies and citizen engagement to address plastic litter.

During the opening session.

The forum shared insights from field research and country experiences on ensuring plastic-free rivers in Asia. The discussions at the respective sessions included evidence-based policy on plastics, frontier technologies and citizen science for plastic pollution management, mapping plastic pollution along rivers, threats on migratory species, data management for insightful and informed decision making, as well as practical actions and solutions to address the multitude of challenges.

MIMA rep. moderated Session 1 of the forum.

Cheryl Rita, Head of the Centre for Straits of Malacca at MIMA was invited to moderate Session 1, “Evidence-based Policies on Plastics”. Session speakers included Prof. Steve Fletcher, Director of the Global Plastics Policy Centre, and Professor of Ocean Policy and Economy of the University of Portsmouth; Atul Bagai, Head UNEP of India; Dr. Suneel Pandey, Director of the Environment and Waste Management Division of the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI); Luu Anh-Duc, Deputy Director of the Department of Science, Technology and International Cooperation, Vietnam Administration of Seas and Islands (VASI); and Nikhil Tikaram Funde, Municipal Commissioner of Agra, India. More than 150 participants attended the session from the region, in addition to representatives from related international platforms.

The discussions focused on generating scientific knowledge regarding plastic pollution in the region to inform policy and decision-making processes. It also deliberated on national and sub-national policy recommendations to address the problem following related international forums, as well as the need to drive government, business entities, and stakeholders’ adoption of innovative tools, technologies, and financial mechanisms to encourage good practices, influence decision-making, and behavioural change to reduce marine pollution.

Discussion with the panel speakers.

Major highlights also concurred with the findings by UNEP released in 2021 through the report “From Pollution to Solution: A global assessment of marine litter and plastic pollution” showing a sharp increase of plastic waste emissions into marine ecosystems. It is estimated that almost 80% of all plastic waste in the oceans originate from land-based sources, leaked through local waterways and rivers largely due to inadequate waste management. Preventing plastic waste into the environment require multi-faceted efforts including effective policies that are supported by robust scientific knowledge. Promoting science-based and evidence-driven countermeasures to reduce and prevent the influx of plastic into economically and culturally important rivers in the region is paramount.

Recording of the session is available at

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