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.
Tete with students from Thakur college of law – Need to hug nature as we hug our loved ones.
Recce at the mouth of Mithi River – This river needs our hug.
We intend to Hug it tight and long – New love – New date pic.twitter.com/JEm0bd7VJv
— Afroz shah (@AfrozShah1) November 14, 2018
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.
Week 163 .#BeatPlasticPollution
Rejuvenation of @RiverMithi in full swing –
1. Cleaning of solid waste in the river .
2. Training people/Citizens living on the edge – Circular economy must be
our life . No littering .
Environmental protection at the ground level . pic.twitter.com/zDcMmvaNwZ
— Afroz shah (@AfrozShah1) December 2, 2018
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.
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.
Week 163 . #BeatPlasticPollution schedule .
1st December.@danapaanibeach cleanup :
10 am to 12 noon .
2nd December.@RiverMithi – 10 am to 2 pm – Rejuvenation , Cleanup , Circular Economy , No litter .
Please join . pic.twitter.com/CGO5TnB0ME
— Afroz shah (@AfrozShah1) November 30, 2018
“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.
The makeover of MithiRiver begins. @AfrozShah1 and volunteers work hard on Sunday, beat the sweltering heat, Afroz wades into the mucky waters, neat inspiring feat. Find 3 dead snakes suffocated by plastic @RiverMithi @TOIIndiaNews @timesofindia pic.twitter.com/KlZpeSUr0h
— Swati Deshpande (@swatidTOI) November 25, 2018
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.
Saturday – 24th Nov .
Beach Cleanup – @danapaanibeach – 8 to 10 am .
Sunday – 25th Nov .@RiverMithi – Cleanup , Rejuvenation , Circular Economy , Community development – 10 to 2 pm .
Pls Join . pic.twitter.com/QDtfmnb2lA
— Afroz shah (@AfrozShah1) November 22, 2018
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.