Many of us have heard one of the most famous verses of Majrooh Sultanpuri, ‘Main akela hi chala tha janib-e-manzil magar Log saath aate gaye aur karwaan banta gaya’ ( I started all alone towards the goal, but, people kept joining and it began to turn into a caravan).
Here is how a Mumbai based lawyer Afroz Shah turned these beautiful lines into a reality.
Love your country, love your nature, this is what patriotism means for Afroz Shah, who has been cleaning up Mumbai city’s beaches and rivers for the last four years.
I heard about Afroz Shah for the first time when I got to know from a newspaper’s story that a single man’s tireless efforts turned Mumbai’s Versova beach into heaven. I think, every Indian and every ocean lover from across the world must know about this ‘Ocean Crusader’ that how his journey began and where it has arrived now for the good cause.
The journey started from Mumbai’s Versova beach as he took this gigantic task into his hand and walked himself into the dirt along with his 84-year-old friend. Four years ago, Versova beach was a residential garbage ground where every day thousands of kilograms of waste was collected, dogs roamed all around the litter pile and birds were hovering at the littered site. The open defecation on the beach was one of the major concerns. The government probably did not take consider this as a major health concern for the local residentials or the dangers it posed to marine life and species.
Afroz himself took this unprecedented task into his own hand and started picking up the plastic waste from the edge of the ocean’s dumping point. People started joining in to accompany him and eventually, a surprising result came up in front of our eyes.
Afroz and his volunteers collected nearly 23 million kg of trash and dirt at Versova beach. It was all done because of his three and a half years of tireless efforts. After the strenuous efforts of 160 weeks, Afroz Shah proudly announced on Twitter that a miraculous change has been made.
Today, what Mumbai’s Versova beach is like never before. After removing maximum waste from the beach, Afroz made a world record with his clean-up efforts and it became the world’s largest beach cleaning activity. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) conferred on him the ‘Champions of the Earth‘ award in 2016.
The journey did not stop there. His next campaign arrived at Mithi river to make it plastic-free. The 15km long river starts from Vihar Lake and meets the Arabian Sea. The river has been severely polluted owing to the surrounding huge slum areas. Industrial waste, sewage, garbage and many illegal activities are responsible for polluting the river.
Afroz Shah and his volunteers arrived every weekend to clean-up Mithi river. Over the past seven months, a tremendous result has been seen as more than 2km of the river stretch has been made plastic-free.
Afroz and his team are not only picking up the plastic from the beaches and rivers, but his volunteers are also visiting the slums area residents to collect plastics, polythene bags, washing public toilets and educating them to not to use plastic and to not throw garbage in the river.
The journey which was started by Afroz Shah single-handedly has now turned into a huge success story. Today, thousands of school and college students are working with him on the roaster system, members of the Dawoodi Bohra community, young politicians like Aditya Thackeray, Bollywood celebrities like Randeep Hooda and many other people have joined Afroz Shah’s ‘Love Mother Nature’ campaign.