The Biggest Beach Clean Up Drives of India | Mission Versova Beach
One piece of rubbish at a time. One bucket full of plastic waste at a time.
One fine day in the month of October in 2015, Afroz Shah and his 84 year old neighbor Harbansh Mathur started cleaning the pile of garbage that they used to see every morning lying all around the Versova Beach in Mumbai. To even think about cleaning a beach spread over kilometers and always brimming with people was a herculean task to begin with. Yet Afroz and his friend kick-started an initiative that ended up becoming one of the biggest beach clean-up drives ever organized in the history of India.
What started as a weekend clean up drive amassed huge support from every corner of society - slum-dwellers, Movie Stars, Political Leaders and even the Prime Minister of India came in support of this campaign.
So much so that the biggest Super Star of Hindi Fim Industry not only participated in the clean-up drive but also donated cleaning equipment to move plastic waste from the beach. Amitabh Bachhan Tweets about his participation in the Versova Beach clean-up drive
The high point of the campaign came on 4 Dec 2017 when the Chief Minister of Maharashtra State himself joined Afroz Shah and his team of volunteers for the clean up drive.
Every weekend Afroz and his neighbour would assemble at the beach and clean a section. To their chagrin, the same spot would become filthier again by the time they would come back. This continued for quite some time but they didn't lose hope. Gradually, slum-dwellers living close by joined them and it became an undercurrent movement.
Afroz started announcing his weekly progress on Twitter and soon more and more people joined in. On November 30, 2017 he was announced as the #IndianOfTheYear for the Public Service category by CNNews18 group. Earlier, in 2016 he was declared as "2016 Environmental Organizer and Champion of the Earth" by the UNEP Organization.
Even after his work was endorsed by the leaders and celebrities alike, his drive wasn't smooth sailing always. The big setback came on November 18, 2017 when during Week 109 Clean Up his volunteers were harassed and threatened by goons supported by politicians with vested interests.
This is what a heart broken Afroz Shah Tweeted and almost gave up on his mission:
But this invited huge outrage on both the offline and online mediums which not only forced the State Government to draft a policy regulating clean up drives but it also brought the Chief Minister of the State to the Versova Beach to support Afriz Shah and his team of volunteers. And since then, it has become an overground movement with only one objective: to keep the Versova Beach free from any sorts of plastic filth
As of 2017, the volunteers have collected over 4,000 tons of trash from the 2.5 kilometre beach.
According to a report by United Nations Environment Programme, By 2050, plastic pollution in our oceans 🌊 may outweigh the fish 🐟 that call them home. And what Afroz Shah and his team is doing is what we should call serving the humankind in real sense.
We need many more Afroz Shah's to keep our environment clean and sustainable for the coming generations.