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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‘Happy Fridge’: The Key To Bridge Food Wastage And Hunger Problem In India

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Rahul Khera and Gautam Jindal, volunteers (aka hunger heroes) at Feeding India, were among the many Delhi NCR residents accustomed to seeing hungry children pick up half-eaten burgers or stale sandwiches from the dustbin and savour those with the brightest smiles. Like many others, they also had the will to promote equitable food distribution but was perplexed about the approach, until they learnt about the community fridge initiative which has gained unprecedented success in Saudi Arabia and few other European countries. Meanwhile, community fridges were already being installed outside restaurants or in public places in a handful of cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Coimbatore and Kochi.

Say Goodbye To Throwing Away Excess Food Because Now You Can Donate The Food To The Needy – Happy Fridge

Thank you for overwhelming response for the Happy Fridge concept. We need more funds from you to install more fridges like this across India. With the limited funds avaialble Feeding India was able to install three fridges only. Kindly donate here http://bit.ly/happyfridge

Posted by The Logical Indian on Saturday, October 27, 2018

Needless to mention, with a shocking 103rd rank in the Global Hunger Index and a food wastage estimate of around Rs 58,000 crore – India was perhaps the best country to implement such an initiative. With Gautam’s help, an enthusiastic Rahul invested his own savings to install a ‘Happy Fridge’ outside his residence at Sun City, Sector 54 in Gurgaon. Set up in 2017 by these Feeding India volunteers, the fridge in Gurgaon has inspired the NGO to scale up the project across India.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

‘Happy Fridge’ fostered many smiles

It didn’t take long for the local residents to learn about this laudable endeavour. They welcomed it, as wastage of excess food was a recurring problem in almost every household. “Intimating the localities was no mammoth task, thanks to social media. However, it was difficult to spread the word among those who actually needed the food,” shares Rahul, who went from auto stands to slums, inviting rickshaw pullers, ragpickers or roadside vendors to avail the community fridge any time they feel hungry. “The security guards of our residential complex played a huge role in explaining how the fridge works to the beneficiaries,” he adds.

The operational and maintenance costs of the ‘ happy fridge ‘ are being maintained diligently by the community members.

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Making memories, sprouting awareness

“I remember one young man who had arrived from a village looking for some menial day job. Somehow he had run out of his paltry savings and had no money to buy one decent meal a day. For about a month, our happy fridge was his solace, till he earned his first salary from a housekeeping job,” shares a jubilant Rahul.

In another incident, a truck driver returning in the wee hours of midnight was starving after a whole day’s hard work. He had run out of cooking fuel at his home, so our fridge was at his rescue.

“The residents keep all sorts of palatable dishes in the happy fridge, ranging from dry snacks, fruits to cooked meals. Sometimes, they even keep raw vegetables, to ensure not a single bit of good food ends up in their trash while other people go hungry to bed,” reveals Rahul.

On an average, each happy fridge supplies around 10-15 meals in a day. The gratitude and pure smiles of the hungry souls after a fulfilling meal are more than enough to continue to motivate Rahul and his neighbours. In fact, inspired by him, many other communities in the Delhi-NCR region set up community fridges in their areas.

Feeding India will set up 500 Happy Fridges

Since the past few years, Feeding India has been a prominent organisation working in the forefront to solve the hunger problem in India. Primarily, they were involved in redistributing leftover food from weddings and parties among the underprivileged people in different cities of India. Their volunteers, better known as “Hunger Heroes of India”, worked actively to bridge the gap between food wastage and food crisis.

“We used to get a lot of calls from individual households to collect their excess food. However, unfortunately, we lacked the manpower and planning to launch our programme on a door to door basis. We were desperately looking for an alternative when we learnt about the community fridges,” shares Srishti Jain, co-founder of Feeding India.

After interacting with Rahul Khera and other campaigners of community fridges, Feeding India decided to amplify this extraordinary project throughout the length and breadth of India. Presently, they have launched the #FightFoodWaste campaign to install 500 community fridges – nicknamed ‘ Happy Fridge ’. So any passer-by – be it a kid going to school without a lunchbox, or a labourer returning home late at night with no promise of a dinner – can now grab a pack of biscuits or a bowl of ‘dal-chawal’ (rice & lentil soup) to satiate their hunger. Click here to contribute for ‘ Happy Fridge ‘ and ensure India never sleeps hungry again.

Feeding India also urges everyone to make a promise to stop wasting food and instead consider donating it to those in need.

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