Quantcast
Popular

World's Largest Beach Clean-Up: Trash-Ridden to Pristine in 2 Years

By Joe McCarthy

A lot of people take part in community clean-up efforts—spending a Saturday morning picking up litter in a park, mowing an overgrown field or painting a fence.


But not everyone has the drive to do what a young lawyer and environmentalist in Mumbai recently accomplished.

In 2015, Afroz Shah moved to an apartment near Versova beach, an ignored strip of ocean near slums. He was shocked by the pollution that he saw—the beach was covered in rotting garbage. Nobody could walk along the beach, let alone swim in the water, without being assaulted by the smell.

"[The plastic] was 5.5 feet high. A man could drown in the plastic," Shah told CNN. "I said I'm going to come on the field and do something. I have to protect my environment and it requires ground action."

At first, Shah and his neighbor, an 84-year old man, would go out and pick up as much trash as they could.

After a while, Shah realized that he had to expand his team if he was going to make a dent in what was essentially an environmental crisis. He began knocking on doors and talking with local residents, explaining the harm caused by marine pollution. His determination inspired a lot of people and soon dozens, hundreds and eventually more than a thousand volunteers from all walks of life pitched in.

Cleanups were ironically called "dates with the ocean," because they were really arduous affairs, "shin-deep in rotting garbage under the scorching Indian sun," according to the UN.

Global Citizen reported on the 33-year old lawyer's efforts last year, but his volunteer organization, Versova Residents Volunteers, was only half-way through with the massive undertaking, which is being hailed as the "world's largest beach clean-up effort."

Now, after 21 months of toil, they picked up 11,684,500 pounds of trash, most of it plastic, that had accumulated along the shoreline. They also cleaned 52 public toilets and planted 50 coconut trees.

For his vision and hardwork, the UN awarded him the "Champion of the Earth" award.

"I am an ocean lover and feel that we owe a duty to our ocean to make it free of plastic," he told the UN. "I just hope this is the beginning for coastal communities across India and the world."

Shah's work didn't end with the last piece of trash picked up, either.

He wants to plant thousands of coconut trees to return the beach to the lagoon it once was and he now works to limit the amount of garbage that makes it to the beach in the first place, by, for example, building barriers along creeks upstream that carry litter to the beach.

He's also planning to expand his clean-up effort to the coastline's mangrove forests, which are similarly infested with garbage. When clean and unobstructed, these forests can act as powerful filtration systems and also form a natural defense against storms.

Shah also hopes to bring grassroots clean-up efforts to other parts of India, inspiring a nationwide awareness of environmentalism. Ultimately, Shah wants to export this mentality throughout the world, cleaning up oceans and ecosystems to create a world that can foster life in all its splendor.

It's going to be an uphill battle.

Each year, 8 to 13 million tons of plastic make it into the world's oceans each year—the equivalent of two garbage trucks filled with plastic every minute. Throughout the world, there are about five plastic bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline. By 2050, plastic could outweigh fish in the oceans.

While companies are to blame for the massive amounts of plastic produced and sold, plastic pollution often happens on an individual level.

But if Shah's work proves anything, individuals can transform their relationship to garbage.

And if his style of enthusiastic environmentalism catches on around the world, then more beaches will begin to look like the Versova beach of today than the Versova beach of two years ago.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Popular
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon, seen here speaking to the press about the Flint water crisis in 2016, will be the highest ranking official to stand trial over the public health disaster. Brett Carlsen / Getty Images

Judge Orders Michigan Health Director to Face Trial Over Flint Water Crisis Deaths

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon will be the highest ranking official to go to trial so far as a result of an investigation into the Flint water crisis, The Associated Press reported Monday.

Judge David Goggins ruled Monday there was probable cause for Lyon to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of Robert Skidmore and John Snyder that prosecutors say were due to a Legionnaires' disease outbreak that Lyon was aware of a year before he alerted Michigan's governor, Michigan Live reported. Lyons is also charged with misconduct in office.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Coal-fired power plant near Becker, Minnesota. Tony Webster / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Trump's 'Dirty Power Plan' Could Cost More Than 1,000 Lives a Year

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled on Tuesday its long-anticipated replacement of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan. The new coal pollution rules will increase planet-warming carbon pollution and could cost more than a thousand American lives each year, according to the EPA's own estimates.

EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler released the "Affordable Clean Energy Rule" today under President Trump's directive. The new plan encourages efficiency improvements at existing coal plants to ensure they operate longer and allows states to weaken, or even eliminate, coal emissions standards. That's a clear difference from former President Obama's plan, which was aimed at phasing out coal and transitioning to cleaner power sources to avoid dangerous climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Two workers in protective gear scrape asbestos tile and mastic from a facility at Naval Base Point Loma in California. NAVFAC / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Why Asbestos Is Still a Major Public Health Threat in the U.S.

Reports surfaced this month that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had proposed a significant new use rule (SNUR) for asbestos in June, requiring anyone who wanted to start or resume importing or manufacturing the carcinogenic mineral to first receive EPA approval.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Rklfoto / Getty Images

Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Wants to End EPA’s Cruel Animal Testing

By Justin Goodman and Nathan Herschler

A bipartisan group of lawmakers in Congress recently pressed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its "questionable" and "dubious" animal tests. The lawmakers' demand for information on "horrific and inhumane" animal testing at the EPA comes on the heels of a recent Johns Hopkins University study that found that high-tech computer models are more effective than animal tests.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Wikimedia Commons

Strongest, Oldest Arctic Sea Ice Breaks Up for First Time on Record

The Arctic is warming at a rate twice as fast as the rest of the globe, and now the region's thickest and oldest sea ice—also known as "the last ice area"—is breaking up for the first time on record, the Guardian reported Tuesday.

The breakage has opened up waters north of Greenland that are normally frozen-solid even in the peak of summer.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Climate Justice Edmonton

These Giant Portraits Will Stand in the Path of Trans Mountain Pipeline

By Andrea Germanos

To put forth a "hopeful vision for the future" that includes bold climate action, a new installation project is to be erected along the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion route to harnesses art's ability to be a force for social change and highlight the fossil fuel project's increased threats to indigenous rights and a safe climate.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
A worker inspects recycled plastic in a plastics factory. Getty Images

The Plastic Waste Crisis Is an Opportunity to Get Serious About Recycling

By Kate O'Neill

A global plastic waste crisis is building, with major implications for health and the environment. Under its so-called "National Sword" policy, China has sharply reduced imports of foreign scrap materials. As a result, piles of plastic waste are building up in ports and recycling facilities across the U.S.

Keep reading... Show less
Adventure
Aaron Teasdale

The One Thing Better Than Summer Skiing

By Aaron Teasdale

"There's snow up here, I promise," I assure my son Jonah, as we grunt up a south-facing mountainside in Glacier National Park in July. A mountain goat cocks its head as if to say, "What kind of crazy people hike up bare mountains in ski boots?" He's not the only one to wonder what in the name of Bode Miller we're doing up here with ski gear.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!