Mumbaiites gear up for 100th week of Versova beach cleanup, 7.2 million kg trash removed so far | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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Mumbaiites gear up for 100th week of Versova beach cleanup, 7.2 million kg trash removed so far

This Saturday, citizens will focus on the north-central portion of the 3km-long beach, Darachiwadi, and expect to remove one lakh kg of trash

mumbai Updated: Sep 15, 2017 15:36 IST
UNEP chief Erik Solheim (in blue) participated in one of the clean-up drives.
UNEP chief Erik Solheim (in blue) participated in one of the clean-up drives.(HT File)

What started off as an inspirational cleanup drive initiated by two Mumbaiites in October 2015 has now transcended into a worldwide movement involving 12,000 citizens working for a common environmental cause, clearing trash from Versova Beach in Mumbai.

The Versova Residents’ Volunteers (VRV), led by city-based lawyer and now beach cleanup crusader Afroz Shah, will be completing week 100 this Saturday, International Coastal Cleanup Day, and expect to remove one lakh kg of trash between 3pm and 5pm. Citizens will focus on the north-central portion of the 3km-long beach (Darachiwadi), which is the only portion of the beach yet to be cleaned up, said members.

The group, which has been joined by over 10,000 school students, civic officials, police personnel, bank employees, lawyers, doctors and various other professionals from all walks of society, has cleared a total of 7.2 million kg trash so far.

“I would like to thank every volunteer who has stepped up over the past two years to clean our ocean and beach. We will all have to work together for the goal that has been envisaged, and this journey will continue till our oceans become free of trash,” said Shah.

In the last week of August, actor Amitabh Bachchan joined the beach cleanup as well. “We were honoured to have his support, and he even gifted us one excavator and tractor for future cleanups across the city,” said Shah.

In October 2015, irked by the immense amount of garbage being pulled in by the sea and on Versova beach, 33-year-old lawyer, Shah, and 84-year-old neighbour, Harbansh Mathur (who passed away last year) began clearing the 2.5-km strand of litter, including plastic bags, cement sacks, glass bottles, pieces of clothing, and shoes.

While delivering his 32nd edition of ‘Mann ki Baat’, a weekly radio-cast address to the nation through the All India Radio, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May this year lauded the efforts of the citizens. In December last year, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) called it the world’s largest beach cleanup in history, and awarded Shah UN’s top environmental accolade – Champions of the Earth award at Cancun, Mexico, making him the first Indian to achieve such a feat.

On Saturday, Naysan Sahba, director of the UNEP’s division of communications and Vijay Samnotra, UNEP India head, will be joining the cleanup. “A metropolis like Mumbai has a healthy engagement between the government and civil society. The cleanup is an example of how citizens can work in tandem to find solutions to problems that plague a city,” said Samnotra. “On this anniversary, UN Environment salutes Afroz and his dedicated band for their endeavour to clean our ocean.”

Senior officials from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said that they will be participating in the cleanup. “It is our responsibility, and we have been cleaning the beach regularly, but being a people’s movement where citizens are coming forward in large numbers is a welcome sight for the municipal corporation,” said Prashant Gaikwad, assistant municipal commissioner and ward officer, BMC.

Seven excavator machines, four tractors, and 43 civic body workers will be deployed at the beach where celebrities, school and college students, bank employees, members of the All India Plastic Manufacturing Association, the Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB) and various other government bodies will join the movement.

“What citizens of Versova have done with the community coming together, mobilised by Shah, to clean beaches is an extremely sustainable model that can be replicated at all urban coastal cities across the country,” said Atul Patne, chief executive officer, MMB.

Each year, people around the world produce nearly 300 million tons of plastic, and a similar amount of plastic waste. Of that, as much as 13 million tons finds its way into our oceans. The plastic wreaks havoc on our fisheries, marine ecosystems and economies, costing up to $13 billion per year in environmental damage.