Until only a year ago, nearly 3 lakh kilograms of garbage was strewn along Mumbai's infamous Versova Beach, which, thanks to the massive success of the citizen initiative, has now been removed. Lauded as the world's largest beach cleanup programme, the 2.5-km long beach is now on the path of rejuvenation.
The initiative was started by a 33-year-old lawyer and Versova resident Afroz Shah about a year ago. “I already had an inclination to protect the environment, and then one fine day I saw huge patches of plastic and filth on the beach from my balcony. The amount of plastic on the beach had to be seen to be believed. It was a horrendous and disturbing sight,” Afroz told The Washington Post. Taking responsibility, Afroz started clearing garbage from the beach.
What started small soon gathered much attention, transforming the cleanup programme at Versova Beach into a massive citizen drive. Over 500 residents of Mumbai joined in, including senior citizens, school children, college students, and Bollywood celebrities such as Subhash Ghai and Pooja Bhatt. The drive was amply supported by the labourers of BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) too.
The massive initiative by Mumbaikars was soon joined by members of the UN, including Eric Solheim, Chief of the United Nation Environment Programme (UNEP) and Lewis Pugh, the UN Patron of the Oceans. "I dream about the day when I can come to Mumbai and swim along Versova Beach. I think that if we can get local communities— business, government, the media — all working together, that day will come," Lewis told Scroll.