Hundreds of people joined civic officials in an initiative to clean up the Versova beach Saturday. And egging them on was a global campaigner for cleaner oceans.
Lewis Pugh, a world-class swimmer, a maritime lawyer and a global advocate for cleaner oceans, joined the clean-up drive volunteered by about 400 Versova residents and the civic body. Pugh, who is also the United Nations Patron of the Oceans, has been following the beach clean-up initiative for the past 43 weeks. The volunteers have claimed that they have so far collected over 1.7 million kilograms of trash from the beach.
“The people of Versova have shown us that no challenge is unsurmountable,” Pugh later tweeted, while touting the ongoing clean-up activity as being the biggest beach clean up exercise in the World.
On Saturday, members of the Versova Residents Volunteers (VRV), which is spearheading the initiative, claimed that around 282 tonne more trash was removed. The exercise will be repeated on Sunday.
The initiative was born in October, 2015, when two samaritans— Afroz Shah and (late) Harbansh Mathur— decided to do something about the dirty beach themselves.
“After seeing the trash on the beach, we decided to carry out the clean up drive on weekends,” said Shah.
The duo’s initiative was well received. “People kept joining the initiative,” he added. “This is Week no 43 for the clean-up activity, and the volunteers are determined to continue it for much longer,” he added.
It was Shah’s post on twitter that caught Pugh’s attention. “I’d tweeted about the initiative. Pugh liked it. Later, he expressed a desire to join us,” Shah said.
With public support swelling, the initiative has also been acknowledged by the civic administration and the local political leadership. “We are getting all the support we need from these corners,” said Naresh Suri, a volunteer. “We want to set an example. The main objective is to overcome the root cause for the dirty beach, the plastic waste and other trash dumped in nullahs and untreated sewage disposed of in the sea. This has already caused a lot of damage to the environment,” said Suri.
Taking part in Saturday’s drive was local BJP legislator Bharati Lavekar, who has also used local area development funds available to her for construction of an access road to allow clean up machines to enter the beach. The civic administration, meanwhile, is helping out with machinery and labour. “We have used mechanised sweeping machines for cleaning up beaches. The initiative by locals is commendable. We provided them with four poclane machines and 17 dumpers,” said assistant commissioner of K (East) ward Parag Masurkar.