Eighty-five weeks later and 5.3 million kilograms of rubbish lighter, a beach in India is now pristine.
As many as 150 people participated in the world’s largest beach clean-up and cleared more than 16,000kg of rubbish off Versova Beach in Mumbai over the weekend in the final push to make the beach litter-free.
The Versova residents volunteers (VRV) group celebrated their 85th week of the initiative, with leader Afroz Shah taking to social media to post a photograph of the clean beach.
Government and United Nations officials congratulated the 33-year-old lawyer who initiated the clean-up in October 2015.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) had awarded Shah the UN’s top environmental accolade — Champions of the Earth award — at Cancun, Mexico, making him the first Indian to achieve such a feat.
“The entire beach is finally clean and our efforts have borne fruit. The trash that is washing ashore is now only coming from the sea. We have asked the civic body to start cleaning the creeks before the monsoon so the beach remains tidy,” said Shah.
Each year, people around the world produce nearly 300 million tons of plastic just as much plastic waste. Of that,13 million tons finds its way into our oceans. This is equivalent to rubbish trucks of plastic into the ocean every minute.
The plastic wreaks havoc on our fisheries, marine ecosystems and economies, costing up to $13 billion a year in environmental damage.
Following Shah’s and the volunteers’ efforts, UNEP started the international Clean Seas campaign in February at Indonesia. UNEP head Erik Solheim said the clean-up was inspired by efforts in Mumbai. Since then, South Africa, a few beaches in North Africa, Yemen and Southeast Asia have started cleaning their beaches to reduce marine litter.
TYPE OF RUBBISH FOUND AT 10 BEACHES IN MUMBAI
Plastic bags 22%
Food wrappers 16%
Plastic fragments 9%
Glass fragments 4%
Bottle or container caps 4%
Cups (including polystyrene, foam cups) 4%
Fabric pieces 4%
Plastic rope/small net pieces 4%
All other items (metal, aluminium, disposal cigarette lighters, utensils, soaps, tin cans, jugs, containers, hard foamed film, construction material, oil etc) 24%