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Maharashtra to receive policy to tackle marine litter menace before June 5

The state currently lacks policy that deals with collection and disposal of marine debris

mumbai Updated: Apr 11, 2018 10:52 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Versova beach before the launch clean-up drive by Afroz Shah. (HT file )

Versova residents, who have participated in the biggest beach clean up operation in the world, have drafted a marine litter policy for Maharashtra. The draft will be submitted to the state before June 5, which is the World Environment Day.

At present, Maharashtra lacks a policy for collection and disposal of marine debris. As per United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), people around the world produce nearly 300 million tonnes of plastic annually. Of this, nearly 13 million tonnes finds its way into the oceans, which is equivalent to dumping two garbage trucks of plastic into the ocean every minute.

“The plastic wreaks havoc on fishes, marine ecosystems and economies, costing up to $13 billion per year in environmental damage,” Afroz Shah, city lawyer who spearheaded the Versova beach clean-up campaign. He added the idea was to draft a policy before monsoon when the beaches are inundated with trash dumped into the sea.

In more than 126 weeks, Shah and members of Versova Residents Volunteers (VRV) have cleared 13 million kilograms of plastic, filth and garbage from the beach. They carried out more than 200 events, sensitising the locals about the problem and got help from the municipal and the state authorities. The United Nations (UN) called their movement as the ‘world’s largest beach clean-up’. Earlier this year, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had asked Shah to formulate a policy to tackle the issue of marine litter, a major threat for coastal cities such as Mumbai.

The measures suggested in the draft policy comprise collection, segregation and treatment of garbage from beach areas along the state’s coastline, protection and rescue of marine species and penalties for those violating the law.

“It will be a comprehensive policy to ensure proper collection and disposal of marine debris, which includes daily removal of all forms of trash along the state’s coastline. While majority of the policy details cannot be made public as of now, but amenities for installing plastic recycling centres along beaches will be one of the provisions. The idea is to curtail plastic from entering the sea at all, and thus some of the provisions will be to collect the trash at source itself,” said Shah.

Officials from the state environment department said they would comment on the draft policy after they study it. “We will share it with every department for inputs and after studying how it would impact every beach with comparatively high pollution levels, a government resolution (GR) will be issued,” said an official.

Raghunath Mahabal, advocate practicing at the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and has represented the state in various cases regarding Coastal Zone Regulation (CRZ) norms, said the policy will be instrumental in helping citizens, NGOs and the state understand how to ensure marine debris removal without violating CRZ norms.

“This is a positive step for the state. It is only because of pressure from environmentalists such as Shah and news groups such decisions are now being taken. Once the policy is ready, there will be clarity to resolve this long pending issue.”

First Published: Apr 11, 2018 10:52 IST