It’s amazing what 1,000 volunteers can accomplish in 85 weeks.
School children pick up trash during a clean-up drive led by Indian lawyer and environmentalist Afroz Shah at Versova Beach. Photo by Indranil Mukherjee AFP/Getty Images.
THE GOOD NEWS:
After an ongoing cleanup effort on Mumbai’s Versova Beach, 5,000 tons of garbage have been removed, restoring the oceanfront to its natural state.
The United Nations Environment Program recently wrapped up one of its biggest clean-up endeavors. Versova Beach in Mumbai, home to 5,000 tons of garbage, was essentially being used as a dump. The waste was coming from nearby slums and had been piling up for years.
The Versova Beach clean-up initiative was started by 33-year-old lawyer Afroz Shah. Shah’s goal of making the beach pollution-free gained traction quickly. It started out with just him and one neighbor picking up garbage in their spare time. That was in the fall of 2015. Since then, thousands of volunteers have come out to help. From local school children to notable Bollywood stars, the clean-up effort was really the work of the entire city, even though it was started by one man.
The waste piles were taller than some of the children helping clear them. But in a year and a half (85 weeks to be exact), they were able to get rid of the 5,000 tons of trash that inhabited Versova. Shah’s clean-up crew also planted coconut trees along the waterfront and cleaned more than 50 nearby public restrooms. Not only will this boost morale in Mumbai, it could also help encourage tourism to the area. The goal, now that they’ve beautified the beach and surrounding area, is to maintain it. The beach now looks pristine and inviting — and though it’s gone through periods of being dirtied again, has undergone renewed clean-up efforts, inspired by Shah’s work.
As for Shah, who saw the clean-up initiative all the way through, his commitment was rewarded. In 2016, he became the first Indian to earn the United Nations’ Champion of the Earth award.