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After the mammoth clean-up drive of Versova beach, which went viral on social media last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday’s Mann ki Baat lauded the efforts of Versova resident volunteers. PM Modi was addressing the nation through his monthly radio programme Mann Ki Baat, his first since completing three years in power.
“I feel proud to make a mention of something…a man can start a massive people’s movement. Recently you must have heard about Versova Beach, once considered very dirty, it has now become clean and beautiful. This has not happened overnight, locals have toiled for over 80 weeks.”
“…all credit goes to Versova Resident Volunteers, they took up the task to clean it up. One Mr Afroz Shah was involved in it since October 2015. Gradually more and more people joined in and it turned into a people’s movement,” PM Modi said.
Versova beach is considered one of the city’s dirtiest coastal stretches. However, over five million kilograms of garbage and plastic has been removed from the beach in the recent months, and the photos of its dramatic transformation have gone viral. Lawyer and environmentalist Afroz Shah (33) led volunteers on an 86-week mission to clean the 2.5 km stretch in the western suburbs.
The United Nations last year had also recognised Shah’s endevour and felicitated him with a Champion of the Earth award in 2016 for his effort to clean up Versova beach. Shah is the first Indian to win this award, PM Modi said. “I congratulate Mr. Afroz Shah and this movement…it is inspirational how he connected people,” Modi said.
Shah told The Indian Express that he feels encouraged with the prime minister’s words. “Volunteers are mostly picking up the plastic thrown up by the ocean. This has been a demonstration of the incredible power of community-based volunteer work,” Shah said.
Earlier this year, in February, the United Nations started the international Clean Seas campaign at Indonesia, on the lines of Versova efforts.