What you can see here is not a landfill. That is Versova beach in Mumbai some years ago. In October 2015, Afroz Shah and his neighbour Harbansh Mathur, an 84-year-old who has since passed away, were frustrated with the piles of decomposing waste at the Indian beach. The beach was covered in over 6000 tons of trash. The United Nations called what Afroz Shah did, the biggest beach clean-up ever. Determined to do something about it, the pair started cleaning up the beach themselves, one piece of rubbish at a time.
“There were five and a half feet of plastic, and when you see so much plastic juxtaposed to the ocean, it’s scary, it’s very scary. We have devastated the health of our ocean. Garbage pile-up either on land or in ocean is a big issue, not only in India, but world over”, as Afroz mentions. So the lawyer took matters in his own hands. He started picking up the trash by himself.
For the past years he took his free time to clean his childhood beach. Every weekend the young man inspired volunteers to join him. All kinds of people started being interested in helping him. From slum-dwellers to Indian celebrities, children and politicians. He was able to motivate the masses to clean up Versova beach with him – or as he liked to call these events “a date with the ocean”.
In total Shah removed more than 13 million kg of waste. This year something very exciting followed: nearly 100 olive ridley sea turtle hatchlings waddling towards the sea. Shah immediately called for help to ensure that the turtles were not attacked by stray dogs on the beach. Soon, a large crowd of people began to record on their mobile phones the slow march of the hatchlings towards the sea, which went on for half an hour.
„ … We think we fulfil the duty only by bashing the government. But the government is not littering, we are.“
He is completely right about that. It starts with every one of us. Choose to recycle and reuse your plastic bags if you still have some. Buy eco-friendly or compostable packaging. Be the Afroz Shah for other beaches and forests.
We all hope that this incredible results will inspire similar initiatives to help save other polluted beaches around the world. Spread the word and help the planet! We all have the power to make a difference!