After Victory At Versova, “Beach-Warrior” Afroz Shah To Clean Up Mithi River In Mumbai

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A thin streak of grey water cleaving through one of the liveliest cities in the world can hardly turn the attention of her busy ‘city-zens’. The feeble Mithi river, which winds through Mumbai from Vihar Lake in the eastern part and drains into the Arabian Sea in the south, is now merely an 18 km long rivulet of filth. Even a few decades ago, the same river supplied drinking water for the families privileged to reside along its two banks. And now, flanked by a population of fifty to sixty lakh individuals, the river is on the verge of being permanently turning into a drain. This was quite the situation before a saviour stepped into the scene. Hailed as the famous ‘beach warrior’, Mumbai-based lawyer and environmentalist Afroz Shah, made up his mind to rejuvenate the Mithi river, which he pronounces as the “aorta of Mumbai”. Shah, who was recently chosen as a Champion of Earth by the United Nations, portrays an iron will to restore the river to her former glory.

In a tweet, the environmental crusader declared the river as his “new love” and urged every ‘Mumbaikar’ to embrace the river and take care of her. 

How the aorta of Mumbai is choking

Speaking to Efforts For Good, Shah explains the root causes of pollution in the river. “Both banks of the river are lined by slums for a long stretch. Solid waste, including plastic, household garbage and even raw sewerage keeps pouring into the river. In addition, Mithi battles with the uncontrolled inflow of industrial effluents, especially from the Kurla region,” he informs.

After the devastating Mumbai floods in 2005, a board was set up by Mumbai Municipal Corporation to supervise the protection of Mithi river. “But since it was not a statutory body, their monitoring process was irregular which did little help. There were major lapses on part of the citizens as well,” he informs.

The river cleaning project started 3 weeks ago

However, what Shah eyes is not merely the physical cleaning of the river, picking up plastic packets, bottles or scratches and strips of other non-biodegradable garbage. “My main focus is to create a circular economy, similar to the model I started in Versova beach,” he explains, “I want to make people conscious that they should not dump garbage into the river and manage their waste more systematically.” In fact, started just three weeks ago, the Mithi river cleaning campaign has already gathered around a hundred dedicated volunteers, who devote their time and efforts every weekend. Afroz Shah has split his battalion into groups of two and three who go from door to door, pleading people to stop rampant garbage dumping. “I believe in Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy. How he inspired with his messages, one life at a time,  is phenomenal,” shares Shah, who aspires to tread the same path.

Look How A Public Campaign Changed The Face Of Versova Beach In Just 3 Yrs

In 2015, Mumbai-based lawyer Afroz Shah spearheaded a movement to clean the city’s Versova beach. It evolved to become the largest beach clean-ups in the world. In an earlier interview with The Logical Indian, Shah said that “Consistency, persistence and sincerity” have been the guiding principle of his movement. This is how Shah and his team were able to completely revamp the Versova Beach of Mumbai.

Posted by The Logical Indian on Wednesday, November 14, 2018

In Versova beach, Afroz Shah gathered thousands of do-gooders who worked tirelessly for 3 years to clean up the vast beach. They revealed the golden sand from underneath heaps of foul-smelling plastic waste, amounting to a total of 7.4 million kgs. Word spread far and wide, with praises pouring in for Shah from Hollywood celebrities to governments of different countries.

The success of the campaign has only propelled this dynamic lawyer to turn his attention to other Mumbai beaches like the Dana Paani beach and lately, the Mithi river.

“It will take me 5 years”

During his days as a law student, Afroz Shah had shot a documentary on the Mithi river, showcasing the slow deterioration. “So I had a fair idea about the extent of pollution. Also, this time I undertook a survey for around 2-3 months before starting,” he shares. In the weeks so far, around 500 metres of the river has been rid of around 4,000 kg of garbage. With a game plan in mind, Shah estimates that it will take him around five years to render Mithi completely clean. 

Not just clean, but rejuvenate

“Cleaning a river is way more difficult than cleaning up a beach,” he states. He clarifies that for cleaning a river, people need to get knee-deep or even waist-deep into the filthy water, which can be highly harmful to health. “So you need ample protective gears like gloves and gumboots,” he advises.

Finding volunteers was never a challenge for Afroz Shah. People were already aware of the problem, but they were struggling to come together and figure out a solution. “All I did was to give them the nudge that this is an emergency situation. The response was overwhelming. The widespread awareness that was created stopped the menace of garbage disposal altogether in Versova. I am hoping to replicate the same in case of Mithi,” he shares humbly. “I don’t plan to just clean a river, I want to rejuvenate it,” he adds.

Efforts For Good salutes Afroz Shah for his amazing efforts and hopes Mithi river regains her pristine purity as the vein of Mumbai.

Also Read: Toilets That Make Gardens From Humanure: An Eco-Friendly Future Can Come From Your Toilet

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2,00,000 meals served
Emergency funds sent to 350 families, 75000+ meals served, 150+ ration kits and sanitary pads distributed
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote

Goonj Is Working With 1000’s Of Volunteers & Partner NGOs To Provide Covid-19 Relief In 18 States

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With the extension of the lockdown the crisis of migrant labourers and daily wagers has just grown bigger due to uncertainty and fear of future. In the migrant colonies, slums and for people in the villages hunger and desperation is building up day by day. This is high time we step up our efforts to support our people who are in dire need of food and hygiene essentials to survive the pandemic, Covid-19.

After the India-wide lockdown, a lot of jobless migrant workers are stuck in cities with hardly any resources while many started retreating back to their villages. With the loss of livelihoods, a large number of them are now struggling to support their families.

Goonj activated its pan India teams and a pan India network of partner organizations and volunteers in urban and rural India. This network, built over the last two decades, helps them learn from the ground, reach material quickly and review and adapt strategy periodically. Intensifying this network has helped Goonj reach and start work across 17produced states/UT in the last three weeks.
Support the cause you care for. Browse All CampaignsBrowse all campaigns
2,00,000 meals served
Emergency funds sent to 350 families, 75000+ meals served, 150+ ration kits and sanitary pads distributed

Goonj’s focus: 

Majority of the Covid-19 relief work by non profits right now is in the metros and cities but Goonj is the only non profit that is also simultaneously focusing on the people in the villages and the ones stuck on highways or somewhere.

Goonj is targeting daily wagers, migrants and other vulnerable groups, who even traditionally are left out like the disabled, sex workers, LGBTQ community.

“COVID-19 is a crisis, yes…But, it’s also an opportunity for us to build the society anew. Not ‘for’ the people…but, ‘with’ the people. And in the process, we will build ourselves too.” – Anshu Gupta, Founder-Director, Goonj.

Direct Monetary and Material Transfer

Wherever Goonj got the permission to open their centres for packing and disbursement of relief material kits, they are creating a kit consisting of 20-30 kgs material including dry rations, masks, sanitary pads and other hygiene material and reaching them to people, as per needs and as per regulations with all safety precautions. This kit will help a family survive for 30 days.

Information till 10th April 2020:

  • Distributed 15,100 ration kits reaching thousands of people
  • Reached 17,700 families
  • Supporting 12 community kitchen across India with 16,600kgs of ration
  • 77,800 food packets provided to migrant laborers and daily wagers walking on the roads across the country.
  • Provided direct financial support to 32 organisations
  • Made 42,800 cloth face masks
  • 24,900 cloth sanitary napkins produced
  • Produced 1500 litres of organic sanitiser

In Goonj’s processing centers its trained team of women are making cloth face masks and cloth sanitary pads (MY-Pads), keeping all the precautions and with the permission and cooperation of the local authorities.

In this lock-down phase if you are facing any difficulty getting sanitary pads or you are running out of stock, here’s a detailed but very simple process of making Cloth Pads at home created by Goonj. “This is how we make Goonj MY Pads.” This is how our mothers and grandmothers turned their spare cloth into pads.

This disaster, unlike any other, is unprecedented in its scale and impact and that’s why we all must do our bit with Goonj to continue its relief work for millions of people in this still unfolding long-tailed disaster.

The need is huge.. We are there.. Need You too !!

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It's not how much we give
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- Mother Theresa Quote
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