How Mahim, Dadar residents are prodding contractors to keep their beaches clean | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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How Mahim, Dadar residents are prodding contractors to keep their beaches clean

Jul 10, 2024 08:56 AM IST

In 2021, BMC assigned the work of cleaning the Mahim and Dadar beaches to three firms, effective till 2028

Mumbai: Mahim resident Anwar Khan remembers the beach near his house, stretching from Mahim Retibandar to Hinduja Hospital, being littered with garbage till around a decade ago.

After Anwar Khan founded the Dargah Street ALM (advance local management), a civil society group, its members began visiting the beach every few days to monitor cleanup activities. (Bhushan Koyande/HT Photo)
After Anwar Khan founded the Dargah Street ALM (advance local management), a civil society group, its members began visiting the beach every few days to monitor cleanup activities. (Bhushan Koyande/HT Photo)

“There used be so much garbage that it was difficult to bear. The BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) had a contractor for cleaning the beach, but they did not work effectively or regularly. The residents too did not care,” said Khan.

Things began changing in 2015, said Khan, when he founded Dargah Street ALM (advance local management), a civil society group, and its members began visiting the beach every few days to monitor cleanup activities.

“We ensured that the contractor was doing the job properly, from cleaning the beach to collecting garbage at a spot to clearing it away from there,” said Khan. “When other residents saw that our efforts were bearing fruit, they too began taking an interest.”

A similar story played out at the adjoining stretch of the beach in Dadar, ensuring that the BMC-appointed contractor turned up and cleaned the beach every day. Today, even though the high tide brings in a lot of garbage on both beaches regularly, they appear clean and litter-free owing to persistent efforts by citizens’ groups.

Residents as first movers

When entrepreneurs Indranil Sengupta and Rabia Tewari moved to Mahim during the monsoons in 2017, they found the beach covered with litter despite the Dargah Street ALM overseeing beach cleanliness work for a couple of years.

“Mahim beach is located at the confluence of the Mithi river and the sea and both these water bodies bring in a lot of garbage during high tide. But the garbage would not be cleaned and we could not see any sand on the beach at all,” recalled Sengupta.

Khan echoed him on the high tide bringing in piles of garbage on the beach during the monsoon, saying, “The Mithi river enters the sea at Mahim, carrying along all the garbage thrown by slumdwellers as well as the waste generated by small scale industries. All this pollution made the sand on the beach black.”

Sengupta, Khan and other concerned residents realised that while they were monitoring the contractors tasked with cleanliness every 10-15 days, what was required was regular visits and follow-ups.

“Influenced by Afroz Shah, who had started beach cleanups in Versova, we ventured onto the beach one fine weekend and started cleaning it up. More people joined in gradually,” said Sengupta. The routine was repeated every weekend between 8am and 11am, when volunteers would collect all the garbage in one spot and the BMC/ contractors would dispose it.

Meanwhile, a separate set of residents and volunteers had taken charge of overseeing cleanup activities in the adjacent stretch of the beach at Dadar after encountering similar hiccups early on.

“The first beach cleanup I organised at Dadar was as a public relations activity for my NGO in 2017,” said Chinu Kwatra, a social media influencer. “Soon, I realised it needed a lot more work than one day would allow. I am also a devotee of Ganesha, so it broke my heart to imagine the idols amidst all the garbage and plastic.”

Though the friends who commenced cleanup work with Kwatra left soon, others, especially college students, joined in. “As we kept going, the beach cleanups garnered attention from sponsors and volunteers. Last month, around 700 volunteers turned up for cleaning on a single day. We’ve completed 395 weeks of cleaning, and collected over 4,000 tonnes of garbage,” he said.

Contractors for cleaning

In 2021, BMC assigned the work of cleaning the Mahim and Dadar beaches to three firms, effective till 2028. Coastal Clear Enviro was tasked with cleaning the Mahim beach at a cost of 156 lakh per year; Clean Coast was tasked with cleaning the Dadar beach at 84 lakh per year, while Pamtec was contracted to provide the machines required for cleanup activities.

Kazi Irfan, the BMC’s solid waste management officer at G North ward who joined the civic body around the same time, recalled the sand at Mahim beach being black. Residents too said the contractors would do their job half-heartedly till they began turning up on the beach almost every day to oversee the work.

“Since volunteers were coming to clean the beach from distant places including Thane, where I live, the contractors felt pressured and started showing up regularly and doing their work seriously,” said Kwatra. “The BMC is more aggressive with their cleaning now,” he said.

Presently, Coastal Clear Enviro and Clean Coast employ 30 personnel who patrol the beach and collect 15 metric tonnes (MT) of garbage per day from the two beaches, while during the monsoon, the collection goes up to 65 MT per day.

The two machines used for cleaning work, called ‘beachtech’, have been imported from Germany, said an official from Pamtec. “They’re essentially tractor pull machines which dig up sand from a depth 30 cm and route it through a conveyor belt, where the garbage and sand are segregated. While the garbage is dumped in a compactor, the sand is deposited back on the beach,” said the official.

The machines, which require an operator and a helper each, collect 10 MT of trash per day during the dry season, and over 30 MT per day during the monsoon.

Problem of Plenty

Although the beach looks clean now, every monsoon brings in extra piles of trash like single use plastic wrappers, plastic bags, clothes, slippers, sacks, and even mattresses, say residents.

“The difference between say 10 years ago and now is that people who live around the beach have seen things change for the better. They like it and want to keep it that way,” said Khan. So, whenever garbage accumulates on the beach, residents raise a complaint with volunteers, who are locally well-known, or the BMC, he said.

“The high tide brings in refuse, but BMC’s workers are present at the beach all day, doing cleaning work till sundown. That is a big improvement,” he said.

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