In 85 weeks, Afroz Shah with support from United Nations and hundreds of volunteers, was able to remove 5.3 million kgs of garbage from Versova beach of Mumbai, known in the past as one of the dirtiest beaches.
The Versova beach in Mumbai had become the dumping site of the garbage that gets pulled in from the sea. In October 2015, Mumbai lawyer Afroz Shah and his neighbour Harbansh Mathur begun clearing up the 2.5 km stretch of garbage, which included plastic, cement sacks, shoes, clothing and glass bottles. Eventually the civic body provided them with facilities such as clean-up marshals, garbage trucks and excavator machines.
2016 saw the formation of Versova Residents’ Volunteers (VRV) group which comprised of 300 citizens. “It was fascinating to see people from the film industry, police personnel, lawyers, fishermen and even different communities come together for one cause,” said Shah.
The transformation can be seen in these pictures:
This amazing evolution was called the “world’s largest beach clean-up in history” by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). UNEP also awarded him the ‘Champion of the Earth’ at Cancun, Mexico for his work in organizing community-led clean-up efforts.
“Because of the direction of the wind, a lot of garbage lands at Versova. The beach is surrounded by slums so lots of garbage comes from there. It was not a very popular beach in terms of visitors and tourists, so its clean-up has been ignored by the municipal corporation,” said Mumbai Marine conservationist Pradip Patade.
About 13 million ton of plastic wastes leads to the oceans every year, which can be compared to “dumping two garbage trucks of plastic waste into the ocean every minute”. This is harmful not only to the marine ecosystems but also to humans, as the trash finds its way into the food cycle and eventually in the food that we eat.
Even after the clean-up, at the end of 88th week, the VRV led by Shah have planted 300 fully grown coconut trees at the entrance of the beach. The plan is for 200 more trees to accomplish the ‘coconut lagoon’ project.
Afroz Shah and his initiative stands as a source of inspiration and shows how a minute action can bring about an enormous change. The dirtiest beach has become spotless in a matter of few years: this stands also as an example of the Swatch Bharat Abhiyaan.