On the second day of the Versova beach clean-up drive, citizens along with United Nations (UN) representatives collected 3.3 lakh kilogrammes of trash, taking the weekend tally to 6.14 lakh kg removed from one end of the beach. In addition, UN ‘Patron of the Ocean’ Lewis Pugh said that open defecation was a serious issue.
“There is an urgent need for public toilets near the beaches. I witnessed hundreds of children and women openly defecating on the beach. This is an issue of basic human dignity,” said Pugh adding that there is a window of opportunity now to fix the problem of marine pollution. “The massive turnout of people indicates that citizens have realised that if we continue to pollute our oceans, it will have very serious environmental impacts.”
Pugh, who leaves Mumbai on Monday, will submit a report on the beach clean-up to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). “I hope that all efforts carried out in Mumbai will light a spark of inspiration across other beaches in South and South East Asia,” he said.
Civic body officials said that 40 mobile public toilets – 20 each for male and female – have been proposed at Seven bungalows chowpatty in Versova. “Owing to sandy terrain, the current design of the toilets is being reworked. We are going in for container toilets and the design will be finalised in 15 days. A community based organisation (CBO) for sensitising local citizens is also in place,” said Parag Masurkar, ward officer adding that the project will be completed in two months.
Hundreds of Mumbaiites gathered on both Saturday and Sunday along with Versova residents’ volunteers (VRV), completing week 43 of the beach cleanup. On Saturday, trash collected from the jetty area of Versova amounted to 2.84 lakh kg. “Lewis’s visit was a game changer as far as ocean clean-ups go in our country. We are indebted to UNEP, which has shown its personal interest in the clean-up,” said Afroz Shah, founder, VRV. “Our efforts will continue next weekend again and we hope to see more Mumbaiites.”
Shah added that over 100 members from the Koli Samaj (local fishing community) which joined the cleanup drive promised to help stop open defecation at the beach.
On Sunday, excavators pulled garbage from the shoreline, collected and kept it in heaps. Following which, 20 dumper trucks carried 12,000 kg of garbage each; two Taurus trucks (larger in size) carried another 35,000 kg each and a few tractors collected the remaining garbage from the northern end of the beach. The trash collected over the weekend was dumped at the Deonar dumping ground.