Hundreds of Mumbaiites gathered at Versova beach on Saturday to collect 2,84,000 kg of trash from the jetty area located on the northern end.
Representatives from the United Nations (UN), including the United Nations Environment Programme-appointed ‘Patron of the Oceans’, Lewis Pugh, who arrived in Mumbai on Friday, joined the Versova Residents Volunteers (VRV) in the five-hour drive. They were joined by students from the Whistling Woods International Film and Television Institute, lawyers from the Andheri Bar Association, members of the Koli Samaj (local fishing community) and representatives of the All India Plastic Manufacturers Association.The trash was taken to the Deonar dumping ground.
Versova is a flat sandy 2.5-km beach with a thick mangrove cover across several parts and garbage gets trapped in the mangroves during the high tide. In the 43rd weekend of the beach-cleaning drive, the citizen groups have collected almost two million kg of trash. “We saw that the enthusiasm of the citizens is infectious. We had almost 500 people on Saturday and it is clear that the drive is gaining momentum,” said Afroz Shah, lawyer and founder, VRV. “Now, this model needs to be replicated by citizens with support from the civic body at all beaches across Mumbai.”
Pugh, a maritime lawyer and campaigner for clean oceans, said that the scale of the cleanup was massive but with citizens’ support they could do a lot of work. “Every inch of the beach was covered in litter when we began. We picked up 673 shoes within a radius of just 10 metres. By the end of it, everyone came together with one mission, to protect our environment and make history,” he said.
“Plastics collected at the beaches is very dangerous for the marine ecosystem and human population living close by,” said Anil C Singh, additional solicitor-general of India (Western Zone) who also attended the drive. “Awareness among the masses will prompt the pollution abatement authorities to make stricter norms to control beach pollution.”
Civic body officials said that various departments of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) were working together to resolve the garbage problem from Malad creek. “During the rainy season the quantum of garbage is more. As a remedial measure, 35 workers each at Juhu and Versova have been doing regular clean-up drives during weekdays,” said Parag Masurkar, ward officer.
After the beach clean-up drive, members of VRV set out in boats towards the Malad creek and collected around 1000kg of trash comprising mainly floating plastic bags and food wrappers. “With the help of local fishermen and their boats, we each held nets as we passed through the creek at a slow pace, pulling out trash,” said Shah