1,500 school students join in Versova beach cleanup
Much-Lauded Campaign Enters Its 100th Week
Mumbai: A dozen schools and their 1,500-plus students packed apunch on Saturday as little hands donned white surgical gloves and set out to pick up the embedded plastic trash on Versova beach with surgical precision.
There were over 2,000 pairs of hands working to clear the gathered filth washed ashore in what the UN environment chief Erik Solheim had dubbed as the biggest beach cleanup in the world. Saturday marked a 100thweek milestone in a dream cleanup campaign that was started in October 2015 by lawyer Afroz Shah and his elderly neighbours in Versova.
Shah had decided to clear the debris after being unable to see the beach buried under a thighhigh pile of litter mostly plastic bags, clothes, more plastic goods. Soon, he got other residents and the civic body on board. It became a weekend mission that turned into an inspiring movement for many. The UN bestowed Shah with the Champion of the Earth Award, making him the only Indian to get the honour. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, too, mentioned the Verso- va beach cleanup in his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ this World Environment Day. Corporate houses began to attend, too.
Amitabh Bachchan marked his debut at the cleanup earlier this month and true to his word, immediately handed over machines to ease volunteers’ burden.
But for 10-year-old Abdullah Shaikh and Aditya Salunke, Class V students of St Mary’s a state board school from Goregaon, and their 70 classmates it was “fun” and “eye opening”. They had tonnes of questions to ask and suggestions as well. Pratibha Kharat principal of S H Agarwal school of IGCSE board, in her enthusiasm, had brought her Class VIII kids in the morning at first and again at 3pm when the cleanup began. Students from Juhu internatio- nal schools joined their volunteering parents.
When told by Shah that plastic milk bags are among the largest lot in the littered trash, Mahadev Jankar, state minister for fisheries and dairy, pledged to try and ban plastic bags sale. The UN team led by India head Vijay Samnotra was present, too, as was Maulvi Atiq and team from Markazul Maarif organisation and Khalsa Aid.
Actor Randeep Hooda, who went live on social media, summed up what many wanted to say, “I have met many who want to work for the environment, but they only talk. Here is Afroz who actually puts things into motion to make a tangible difference where people of all ages, colour and beliefs show up as one family to save their home, the Earth.”
Young students called the campaign ‘fun’ and ‘eye-opening’