The main difference between India and the rest of the world is the cleanliness of public spaces. In other parts of the world, mounts of filth and plastic waste that define the public spaces of India are clearly absent. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan took the first steps in making a change from this depressing scenario. Whether the program succeeds or not in the long term, it definitely succeeded in creating an awareness about cleanliness among Indians. Recently the Indian City of Mumbai took a leaf out of the new found awareness and went further ahead.
Afroz Shah at the beach
It all began when 33-year-old Mumbai Lawyer Afroz Shah decided enough is enough and took it upon himself to clean filth-encrusted plastic bags and other garbage from a Mumbai beach. A few friends joined him and soon this small group of concerned individuals spiralled into one of the largest beach clean-up movements in the world.
This clean-up operation focused on Versova Beach in Mumbai, in nearly a year’s time, cleared thousands of tons of garbage from the shoreline.
The beach today
In 2015, Afroz Shah who had an inclination to protect the environment, discussed with his 84-year-old friend and neighbour Harbanash Mathur after he saw huge patches of plastic and filth on the beach from his balcony. Mathur agreed to join him to help clean the beach. The duo soon began their work cleaning the beach not waiting for the mercy of the authorities. In no time, the social media took up the matter and volunteers started joining in. There are nearly 200 volunteers, now hell bound on keeping the beach neat and clean.
Harbanash Mathur has since died but the movement continued to grow. The group of Versova Volunteers meet every weekend to clean the vast piles of garbage strewn along the beach. The beach garbage issue is not isolated to the Versova beach. The plastic washes in from the ocean and the issue is made worse by people littering along the beach. Most nearby businesses and households consider the beach as their garbage disposal site. The volunteers manage to remove upto 10000kg of trash in one day.
— Afroz Shah (@AfrozShah1) August 18, 2016
Shah’s post on Twitter caught the attention of Lewis Pugh, a swimmer and a self proclaimed advocate for cleaner oceans August this year. Pugh joined the clean- up drive, which help gain international attention for the project.
Now the volunteers want to set an example for the rest of the world to follow.
— Lewis Pugh (@LewisPugh) August 6, 2016