Story of the Man Who Removed 4,300 Tonnes of Plastic in Mumbai

It was in 2015 that Mumbai-based lawyer Afroz Shah decided to take up the task of cleaning the Versova beach.

2 min read

Started by local hero and lawyer Afroz Shah, the ‘Clean up Versova’ drive in Mumbai gradually evolved into one of the largest beach clean-ups in the world.

The Mumbai beach makeover made headlines all across, getting the United Nations to laud his efforts. Subsequently, he was awarded the Champions of the Earth award by them.

Speaking to The Logical Indian, Shah gave insights into how he began this initiative and what it means for the city and the country.


Describing his push to initiate this as being rooted in the need to clean up beaches, Shah says, “there was plastic everywhere – on the jetty beach, on the sand, on foot-walks – plastic everywhere.”

“I decided that I should do something. There were various options before me. I could file a public interest litigation (PIL) at the Bombay High Court and invite the court to pass orders, or I could complain to local municipal authorities about the issue. But I wanted to take the correct and truthful path. It was my planet, my environment, my ocean and my human right. I decided to wear my gloves and solve the problem by connecting with my ocean and getting people to help me along the way,” he told The Logical Indian.

The journey, quite predictably, wasn’t an easy one.

“In the beginning, there were only two of us. I still remember the first day; I picked up five bags full of plastic. We began in October 2015, and till date, we have removed 4300 tonnes of plastic. We clean every Saturday and Sunday. We also run awareness programmes among fisherfolk and slum dwellers,” Shah proudly asserted.

When asked about the role that common individuals can play in helping the marine environment and in conserving the ecological sphere, Shah said that awareness programmes play a crucial role.

“Towards the south of the beach, there are slums. In this region, there are 32 toilets for over 15,000 people. Inhuman conditions of living are toxic both to the inhabitants and the environment. We conduct awareness programmes in this area, and clean toilets occasionally,” he said.

He also thinks the law isn’t enough when it comes to protecting the environment. “Take solid waste management as an example. We have too many laws, rules and regulations, but little ground action. We require law, but we require ground action in a huge way.”

“The law isn’t enough, take it from me, I’m a lawyer. We are all stakeholders, we all have to be involved. We, each and every one of us, have to go beyond the call of the law and create a bond with nature, an intimate bond.” Shah told The Logical Indian.

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