Once considered among the dirtiest beaches in the city, Mumbai’s Versova beach is now its cleanest -- all thanks to locals and a Bombay High Court lawyer who led a massive campaign to clean the beach.
Located in the north-western area of the city, it took 85 weeks for the volunteers to transform the beach. The campaigners have so far cleared 53 lakh kg garbage from the 2.5-km stretch of the coast.
Afroz Shah, a 36-year-old lawyer at the Bombay HC, said that his team worked tirelessly for more than one year to remove waste from the Versova beach.
Afroz said that he has taken an oath to continue cleaning the beaches on a mission mode.
“I would continue till I am physically active or my limbs help me and I am confident to take a large number people along with me in my mission. My team members go to the beach every Saturday and Sunday and collect the garbage and dump it near the points from where BMC (civic body) men take it to segregation centres,” he said.
While talking about the importance of preserving the environment, waste segregation and clean India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted the Versova beach clean-up as a people’s movement during his monthly radio programme ‘Mann Ki Baat’ this Sunday.
“It is our duty to protect the environment for our future generations. One of Mumbai’s dirtiest beaches, Versova, has been completely transformed into a clean and pristine beach. Over 86 weeks, Mumbai citizens got together and worked towards making this a reality,” said Modi.
“The entire credit for this goes to Versova Residents Volunteers (VRV) and their leader Afroz Shah, who began the clean-up in October 2015.”
Elated over finding a mention in Modi’s programme, Afroz said that he was thankful to the Prime Minister for the kind words.
“This has further encouraged me to expand my mission and I would like to replicate (it) at all the beaches across the country, and not only in Mumbai,” Shah said.
Last December, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) called it the world’s largest beach clean-up in history and awarded Afroz UN’s top environmental accolade -- ‘Champions of the Earth’ award.