Back in October 2015 a young lawyer named Afroz Shah looked out at the tonnes of rotting rubbish that had washed up at Versova Beach, which sits just to the west of Mumbai, and decided something needed to be done.
Along with his neighbour, 84 year-old Harbansh Mathur, who has sadly since passed away, Shah began a grass roots beach cleaning operation, turning up at the coast every weekend and clearing the rubbish by hand. Through a concerted campaign of door knocking and media coverage, Shah as convinced scores of volunteers to join him, roping in helpers from all walks of life, including slum dwellers, Bollywood stars, politicians and school children. “They have been turning up at Versova for what Shah calls “a date with the ocean”, but what in reality means labouring shin-deep in rotting garbage under the scorching Indian sun.” reports The UN.
Over an 85 week period the army of volunteers have reportedly managed to remove four thousand tonnes of rubbish from the 2.5km of sandy beach, restoring parts of it to its former glory, with the The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) calling the effort one of the biggest beach clean ups in history. The organisation has also began planting trees on the beach, with a view to creating a large ‘coconut lagoon’.
“The beach had a coconut lagoon almost two decades ago.” Shah told the Hindustan Times. “People chopped all the trees and reclaimed the land, we want to restore the lost beauty of this beach.”
There’s still plenty of work to do when it comes to tackling India’s waste management problem and this beach based effort is just the start. Shah now plans to extend the campaign to the coastline’s rubbish filled mangrove forests, which act as a natural sea defence against storm surges.
Find out more about the ongoing project, and follow it’s progress on their Facebook page.