Together with his team of volunteers, Afroz Shah has cleared more than four million pounds of trash from Versova beach in Western Mumbai.
India’s most populous city, Mumbai, is leading the way in campaigning against waste management at beaches with its successfully running clean-up campaign at Versova beach, one of the many beaches in Mumbai and India that is presently under a garbage crisis. Together with his team of volunteers, Afroz Shah has cleared more than four million pounds of waste from Versova beach’s 1.5-mile stretch of coastline facing the Arabian Sea in western Mumbai. The campaign is performing exceptionally well in terms of local participation and awareness. “It’s a date with the ocean every Sunday,” Shah explains with a laugh.
A lawyer at Bombay High Court, Shah is widely known as a passionate environmentalist and a beach lover who arrives with his cleaning gear and team of volunteers on weekends at Versova beach. “I am an ocean lover. According to me, ocean gives life to humanity. The fine balance between water, tree and human being is what sustainable development is according to me.”
From a very young age, this ocean lover has stood up for environment conservation methods. As a student, Shah worked towards saving the mangroves and spreading awareness to highlight their role in environment. “Mangroves are the roots of ocean, they are ecologically sensitive and fragile and now Bombay High Court has declared it as a protected forest, [although] it wasn’t earlier.”
In his latest campaign, Clean-Up Versova beach, Shah has gathered massive support ranging from locals and celebrities to environmentalists and civic bodies while exposing the global society to a pressing issue – marine pollution.
Whether or not your local beach is congested with plastic and waste material, if we continue producing plastic at the current rate without engaging appropriate measures to dispose and recycle, plastics in our ocean will outweigh fishes by 2050, according to World Economic Forum.
Industrial waste continuously disrupts marine ecosystem with toxic substances such as mercury and DDT that dangerously penetrates into its habitats. Plastic, an underestimated threat, coagulates into garbage patches that eventually gets transported on to beaches and remote islands before oceans consume a majority of it into their habitat.
Shah responds on the plastic epidemic saying “The problem is not with the plastic; it’s how people react to plastic. There is some kind of indifference and apathy towards plastic. You clean your house, wash your body and that’s exactly what the oceans require. Just because they are humongous in size, doesn’t mean you should be neglecting them.”
When it comes to waste management in India, little is what’s been done. Local municipalities have no infrastructure to segregate waste and therefore the public cares the least on the matter. Most recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi triggered a debate on cleanliness by launching the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission) which was reciprocated strongly in debates and weakly in implementation.