1,500 school stu­dents join in Versova beach cleanup

Much-Lauded Cam­paign En­ters Its 100th Week

The Times of India (Mumbai edition) - - TIMES CITY - Swati.Desh­pande @times­group.com

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.”

Swati Desh­pande

Young stu­dents called the cam­paign ‘fun’ and ‘eye-open­ing’

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