Organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) are an important potential component of chemical pollutants used extensively for agriculture and sanitation purposes in India as these are comparatively cheap and effective. These persistent organic compounds such as HCH isomers, DDT and its metabolites are the predominant chemical contaminants found along the Indian coast and thus constitute both alluring and grave areas of scientific research. Our objective in the paper is to provide a comprehensive account of the distribution of organochlorine pesticides in biotic and abiotic compartments of the Indian coastal environment, make some comments on their environmental sources, their movement through the food chain and possible ecotoxicological risk of health in biota including humans. The prevalent HCH, DDT and HCB concentrations differ markedly in eastern and western coast of India reflecting differing agricultural and other usage and their ultimate input into the coastal environment by several rivers and the bioturbation activities of macrozoobenthos (bivalve mollusks, polychaetous annelids, etc.). In several cases, the DDT levels exceeded the effects range-low (ER-L) and could thus cause acute biological impairments, in comparison with the sediment quality guidelines. Contributions of DDT metabolites (DDT, DDD and DDE residues) vary in different Indian coastal regions predominated by pp′-DDT and pp′-DDD. Measured concentrations of HCHs were lower than DDTs that might be due to higher water solubility, vapor pressure and biodegradability of the latter. HCH and DDT residues in fish in India were lower than those in the temperate countries indicating a lower accumulation in tropical fish, which might be related to rapid volatilization of this insecticide in the tropical environment. The concentrations of other chlorinated pesticides (aldrin, dieldrin, eldrin, methoxychlor, endosulfan sulphate) were lower and not generally of great concern. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.