World’s Largest Beach-Clean-up,Versova, Mumbai, India

Story by Hazel Delgado Planco

versova beach cleanup

(Story by Hazel Delgado Planco)

Meanwhile in Mumbai, India, Versova Beach is home to a large community of fishermen and this inspired local residents to join efforts in cleaning up the beach.

Record-breaking sailor Ellen MacArthur who has seen more of the world’s oceans than anyone else gave a warning that there will be more plastic in the sea than fish by 2050. It is indeed very alarming that such trash will eventually take over our seas and oceans if we do not do anything about it now.

Afroz Shah, a lawyer in his 30’s and  Harbanash Mathur, a retired businessman in his 80’s has been  collecting litters in Mumbai beaches on their own initiative. Only few volunteers would help with the coastal clean-up back then.

But their tenacity and determination towards their advocacy has eventually paid off.

Despite the passing of Harbanash Mathur,  people eventually have started picking off where he left off as Afroz Shah and Versova Resident Volunteers (VRV), a 200+ member citizen group has  still been doing rounds in cleaning up Mumbai’s infamous dirty beach for over 40 weeks.

versova beach cleanup1

610,000 kg of trash has already been collected by VRV over the past weeks which has drawn the attention of United Nations Patron of the Ocean, Lewis Pugh, who flew to Mumbai to take part in the world’s largest beach clean-up in Versova Beach during the weekend.

According to United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), marine litter affects tourism, recreation, tourism and shipping. “Almost all of the trash we’re seeing is single-use plastic. Heartbreaking. The section of beach we are on was already cleared out a few weeks ago, goes to show we need to find solutions upstream.” said Lewis Pugh on the Versova coastal clean-up.

So far in Versova Beach, over 2 million kgs of trash have already been removed by the volunteers.

versova beach cleanup2There were up to 673 sandals, shoes and  flip-flops that were piled up in a 10 meter radius.
Photo from Lewis Pugh

versova beach cleanup3 Lewis Pugh and Afroz Shah picking up debris in Mumbai’s notoriously dirty Versova Beach.

From 147th in nationwide cleanliness survey in 2014,Mumbai has now stepped up to 10th according to the latest survey. The clean-up efforts were also in response to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” or Clean India Mission, a national drive to clean up the country.

This is but a sad reflection of the lack of understanding of the consequence of our actions where our unwise practices have created problems such as reduction in biodiversity and degradation of species and marine habitats. We cannot afford to risk the very ecosystem on which our survival depends.

We must bear in mind that every single rubbish that we throw will definitely have an impact not only in our environment, but in the entire ecosystem. It begins with the individual self-discipline and sense of responsibility along with education and awareness about cleanliness and environmental issues and a better waste management system to prevent the wastes from reaching bodies of water  and help bring positive change for our environment.

And not to undervalue the impact of collective action in such efforts in saving the seas and oceans where the water system plays a significant role in our lives no matter how close or far from the shore we live because oceans are the lifeblood of the entire humanity.

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