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Home / Environment / Towards clear conditions

Towards clear conditions

Meet the people in Mumbai doing their bit to save the environment from pollution Meet the people in Mumbai doing their bit to save the environment from pollution

environment Updated: Sep 06, 2019 16:21 IST
Sanskrita Bharadwaj
Sanskrita Bharadwaj
(Afroz Shah and residents during a beach clean upat Versova)

Pollution is a cause of concern throughout the world. In terms of waste pollution, Maharashtra generates 15% of India’s trash, with the state contributing 21,867 tonnes per day (TPD) of India’s daily output of 1.42 lakh tonnes. Meanwhile, Mumbai, contributes about 10% of the state’s pollution.

Besides, were you aware that not just air, water, garbage pollution, but light pollution (excessive or obtrusive manmade light) is on the rise, too?

We speak to three environment crusaders who have taken it upon themselves to do their bit for society.

Afroz Shah, Lawyer and Environmentalist

In October 2015, Mumbai-based lawyer and environmentalist Afroz Shah, moved to Versova from Bandra. The state of the Versova beach concerned him and he decided to clean it. Shah started a volunteer organisation called the Versova Residents Volunteers, and encouraged locals to show up weekly, under an initiative called, Dates with the Ocean.

Shah says that the reason he coined the initiative, was because of how tiring the work could be. “One needs to put in an effort while going on a date, and this task of cleaning the beach is exactly like that — a lot of effort,” he says.

Every Sunday, the volunteers would gather to remove as much trash as possible. Over the course of 21 months, volunteers removed close to 11,684,500 pounds of trash, most of which was plastic. The volunteers also cleaned up 52 public toilets and planted over 50 coconut trees.

In 2016, Shah was honoured with the Champion of the Earth award by the United Nations Environment Programme for his work.

Shah says, “When you take a walk on the beach, you will realise how polluted it is, there is plastic everywhere. We have lost touch with nature. I try to mobilise and involve younger people from schools and colleges in the age group of 8 to 21. If they get trained, half the problem could be solved.”

Shah, is currently associated with further cleaning of Versova beach.

Apart from that, his team is also cleaning Dana Pani beach. At the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, they are training people across 43 villages to reduce the volume of waste.

Besides, Shah and his team are also involved in the cleaning of Mithi river, by engaging locals who live along the river bank. “The locals want the river to be clean, but they’re not aware of how to go about it, so they need to be educated,” he adds.

Reduction of garbage and reducing our carbon footprint, Shah says, are key elements to deal with pollution. Shah explains, “We need to coexist with nature. If we throw plastic into the ocean, that troubles the sharks, turtles, etc. They eat plastic and die. It’s really scary.”

Monisha Narke, Environmentalist

About eight years ago, Monisha Narke, founder and CEO, RUR Greenlife, began her mission to save the environment by segregating waste at home. Back then, her neighbours in Mahim appreciated her effort but it took them another two years to start doing the same.

“I would compost the waste at home, but such initiatives work better when an entire community comes together,” Narke says. Later, when other members started supporting the cause, they went beyond wet and dry waste segregation to rainwater harvesting, tetra-pak recycling and organic gardening. Now, Narke, 43, through her NGO, tries to inspire other societies, schools and colleges to manage waste.

Monisha Narke (second from left) depositing tetra pak cartons along with other women
Monisha Narke (second from left) depositing tetra pak cartons along with other women

“We do a lot of campaigns and activities related to solid waste management. Our prime endeavour is to maximise recycling of waste. We are working on ways to recycle biodegradable waste. We also work on educating people on green alternatives such as making your own cleaning agents and alternatives to reduce the load of trash in the environment,” she says.

Talking about one of their ten-year long initiatives, Go Green with Tetra Pak, Narke says, “Tetra pak carton has 70% paper, 20% polyethene and 10% aluminium. This kind of packaging is totally recyclable and can be converted into furniture such as chairs, tables, desks, etc.”

Narke’s team has been running this programme in Mumbai where they have collection points across the city. Individuals could deposit tetra pak cartons at these points, which is then sent for recycling. The recycled furniture is later distributed among underprivileged children.

Nilesh Desai, IT Professional and Environmentalist

From 2016, Nilesh Desai, a resident of Kalbadevi, had filed several complaints with the district administration and other civic authorities citing light pollution from Mumbai’s Wilson Gymkhana’s floodlights. Light pollution from Wilson Gymkhana was not limited to interference with the resident’s way of life but intense glare affected motorists and people visiting Marine Drive.

Finally, this year, in March, Wilson Gymkhana took down all four of its high-mast floodlights. “Initially, I started approaching the state and civic authorities to look into the matter, and they just ignored me. I had to explain the authorities the harmful effects of light pollution and it was then that they started taking me seriously. They didn’t tackle the case as light pollution but they looked at it as an illegal construction because those lights were put up without anyone’s permission. Hence, they removed those floodlights,” Desai says.

Glaring light pollution created by the Wilson Gymkhana as seen from the Marine Drive promenade overlooking Marine Drive road         Anshuman Poyrekar/HT Photo
Glaring light pollution created by the Wilson Gymkhana as seen from the Marine Drive promenade overlooking Marine Drive road Anshuman Poyrekar/HT Photo

He also realised it’s not just an issue in Mumbai but several cities in other countries are struggling with light pollution, too. “There are no strong laws around light pollution and nobody will take it seriously unless there are laws. But we need to take it to the next level. We have to make people aware, especially younger people at schools and colleges,” Desai adds.

In May this year, Desai submitted a 60-page document to the environment ministry in 2018, highlighting areas with high levels of light pollution urging the formulation of comprehensive light pollution laws in India. Desai’s document is one of the first recommendations in India to adopt a policy to address light pollution. It includes lighting guidelines for buildings, construction projects, open spaces, parks, gymkhanas, eco-sensitive zones, national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, billboards etc.

Following the petition to curb light pollution, the Union Environment Ministry had said it will study the impact of light pollution and address the problem.