Versova: The Indian beach that went from being a garbage dump to a home for turtles.
Afroz Shah, a lawyer and environmentalist, led the initiative and was awarded by the UN for carrying out the world's largest cleanup on a beach.
In Mumbai, Versova beach, you couldn't see the sand from the amount of accumulated waste… a real dump.
Motivated to recover his native beach, Afroz Shah in 2015 got down to work. “I decided to move to an apartment with an ocean view, but all I saw was piles of garbage up to 16 meters high. A man could drown in all that plastic "
The beach cleaning process was not easy, it had many disappointments. Shah says that “the plastic was deeply buried in the sand and it was almost 160 centimeters of garbage. Despite the fact that neighbors and friends joined, the efforts were not enough. We understood that the challenge was to clean the dirtiest beach in the world and that this could be impossible ”.
To organize themselves, they made a call for volunteers through social networks. They put together brigades with more than 500 volunteers and 250 committed members.
People from different cities and countries worked in the brigades; and included children, youth, adults and also older adults.
Bollywood authorities, actresses and actors were also joined, such as Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and even the recently deceased superstar Sridevi Kapoor.
“The task was not easy. There were moments of despair, especially when we cleaned the sand and the sea continued to return new waste. But even so, our enthusiasm did not diminish, ”Shah told local media.
Together they managed to collect more than 13,000 tons of garbage.
Return of the turtles
The story not only ends well because they have managed to clean the beach, but also, after 20 years of dirt, dozens of olive ridley turtles returned there to nest.
“Between 90 and 95 baby olive ridley turtles were found, which the volunteers released into the sea. This is a phenomenon that has not been observed on a Mumbai beach for more than 20 years, ”says a UN environment report.
They have managed to collect 13,000 tons of garbage from the beach. And that's not all, together with his team, Shah are planting 5,000 palm trees to beautify the beach.
“I am a lover of the oceans and I believe that we owe a debt to our seas. I hope this is the beginning of a movement that involves the whole world from India, ”said Shah upon receiving the UN award in December 2017.
With information from: