When reading the statistics about plastic waste and other kinds of pollution, it can be difficult to actually imagine how much water our trash fills and how much land it covers – especially when the numbers themselves are so enormous that they completely elude our imagination. This is why sometimes the best thing is to simply see the scope of the problem.

The photograph of the Versova beach in Mumbai entirely covered with waste is more than impressive – the beach is so completely full of filth that you cannot even properly see the sand or the water beyond the mountains of waste… The beach was considered to be one of the city’s dirtiest stretches of coast. It was something of an unofficial garbage dump. “Was” because it looks like that no longer – in fact, it looks like a completely different piece of land altogether.

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Afroz Shah, a lawyer and environmentalist, couldn’t bear to look at that travesty of a beautiful beach no longer. He became the leader of a team of volunteers who went on a 21-month mission to clean the 2.5 kilometer stretch of coast. They began cleaning the beach in 2015, their team gradually joined by more than 1000 volunteers, including local school kids and Bollywood stars alike.

During the clean-up of Versova beach, the team removed over 5,500 tons of trash and plastic!

 

 

Shah told CNN, he was determined to organize the clean-up after becoming seriously alarmed by the amount of rubbish piled up on the beach that was once so picturesque. “A man could drown in the plastic,” he said. “I said I’m going to come on the field and do something. I have to protect my environment and it requires ground action.”

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Not only did the team remove over 5,500 tons of trash, but also cleaned 52 public toilets and planted 50 coconut trees. Shah wants to plant thousands more to turn the beach back into the coconut lagoon that it used to be.

Now, the main task when it comes to keeping Versova beach beautiful is to maintain it and never allow it to become as appallingly polluted as it was. Shah and his volunteers have been praised for their wonderful effort all across India. In 2016, he was rewarded by the United Nations with a Champion of the Earth award. His clean-up mission is a great inspiration and a reminder that huge changes often start from just one person determined to make a difference!

If you’re inspired by this amazing action, you can start reducing plastic in your everyday life! To learn how, check out One Green Planet’s #CrushPlastic campaign. 

Let’s #CrushPlastic! Click the graphic below for more information.

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Image source: Afroz Shah/Twitter

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