Part of the city’s coastal flora and fauna, the Versova beach in Mumbai’s western suburbs, is one of the dirtiest beaches. Starting in October 2015, the world’s biggest beach cleaning initiative took 85 weeks to get completed. Afroz Shah, a lawyer at Bombay High Court, started off with his 84-year-old neighbour Harbansh Mathur. “The first day, we filled four-five plastic bags with garbage and we were so happy,” Shah said.
The task ahead for Versova Residents’ Volunteers (VRV), the residential group of volunteers heading the clean-up drive, as Shah describes was a case of “participative democracy at its best”. In their enormous action to clear and protect the Versova beach, VRV were supported by Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC); while it also inspired support from United Nations and similar-thinking citizens. “It was fascinating to see people from the film industry, police, lawyers, fishermen and other walks come together for one cause,” expressed Shah.
On Saturday afternoon, Shah shared a picture of the Versova beach on Twitter emphasising on maintaining the cleanliness. “This is Versova beach an hour back. Week 85 of cleanup. Versova beach is gorgeous and clean now. We have done our bit. We need to maintain it.”
Shah, who was honoured by UN with ‘Champions of the Earth Award’ for his efforts to initiate the world’s largest beach clean-up, is determined to continue his efforts and fight the battle against ocean litter. The growing involvement of citizens, personalities from film industry, police, lawyers and the fishermen community helped complete the overhaul.
In October last year, Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, who volunteered with VRV for waste collection at the beach said, “His [Shah] efforts, and the hundreds of volunteers he’s inspired, is a wonderful example of citizen action and reminds the rest of the world that even the most ambitious, global agreements are only as good as the individual action and determination that brings them to life.”
The accomplishment has received lots of praise and acknowledgement over the past few days. It is important to understand and act upon, as Shah stated in 2016, “Institutionally, they will have to put up some sort of mechanism.” The growing problem of garbage disposal in Mumbai is not a new discovery, as issues surrounding the Deonar dumping ground still remain unaddressed. With unsystematic dumping techniques causing health problems and affecting the quality of coastal waters severely.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) had awarded Shah the UN’s top environmental accolade — Champions of the Earth award — at Cancun, Mexico, making him the first Indian to achieve such a feat.
About the Author
Balbir Singh Aulakh is a 20-year-old Mass Media graduate, who is an extremely passionate writer about football. He has past experience of covering Indian football for Football Counter as a Sports Correspondent. He is a contributor at TheHardTackle and possesses experience working in electronic and digital media. Based in Mumbai, he aims to pursue his Master’s degree in Public Policy. You can contact him via e-mail at email@example.com.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author in his personal capacity and do not in any way represent the views of any entity, organisation that the author may have been associated with.
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