Residents of Worli Koliwada, one of the oldest fishing villages in the island city, woke up to an unfamiliar sight on Saturday morning. At 9.30am, around 240 students armed with gloves, masks and garbage bags got busy sweeping up the Worli fort and the winding lanes of the village overlooking Mahim Bay.
Students from around 16 colleges under the National Service Scheme (NSS) unit of Mumbai university joined the Hindustan Times Clean My Mumbai initiative on Saturday.
Ashish Pal, a second-year BCom student at NL Dalmia College, Malad, said, “It is important that our heritage structures are maintained well. It is our duty to clean and preserve our environment.”
Another student said, “It is important that through this drive, a message is conveyed to the locals about keeping the fort clean in the future.”
Atul Salunkhe, state public relations officer, NSS, said, “This joint initiative with HT will inspire students to spread the message of cleanliness. It is a small step towards making citizens more responsible and keeping important structures in the city clean.”
Even municipal officials agreed. A Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) official, who did not want to be named, but was present during the clean-up drive, said, “If such drives are organised periodically, it can inspire the residents of Koliwada to take up cleanliness seriously. The students have done tremendous work. The BMC workers clean the area once a week. However, we are short-staffed and cannot do much.”
Resident said keeping the fort and its environs clean was a constant challenge. “Plastic bags filled with garbage are dumped here and this causes problems during the monsoon. It is important that we feel the fort and the surrounding area belong to us and it’s important to keep them clean. These students, with their sheer enthusiasm, have shown us the way.”
Phillip Earis, scientific editor, Royal Society of Chemistry, who has been working with the local Christian community in Koliwada said, “Mumbai has many heritage places that are unexplored and are in a dilapidated state. This initiative could kick-start events to educate and make the local community aware about the need to maintain these iconic structures and oldest habitats in the city.”
Gautam Kirtane, research fellow and faculty at Observer Research Foundation, who has worked on projects such as the Mithi river clean-up, as well as the Worli Koliwada community, said, “If the Worli fort is kept clean, more people will start visiting the historic fort and it will become a shared public place.”