Green activist Afroz Shah, best remembered for achieving the impossible by miraculously cleaning Versova beach, has now shifted focus to Mithi River in Mumbai.
For months, Shah has been busy trying to make the river free of plastic waste. His efforts bore fruit seven months ago when the Filterpada slum colony near Vihar Lake, which is where the river originates, stopped dumping plastic waste into it.
According to a report by Mumbai Mirror, residents of the 6,000-odd households in the colony have been collecting the plastic waste generated and handing it over to the activist and his team of volunteers. Then, they send the plastic waste to recycling units.
As a result of this initiative, 1.25 km stretch of the 18-km-long Mithi River is now free of plastic waste.
It took shah and his volunteers nine months to convince the slum dwellers to segregate their plastic waste and not dump them into the river. Long-drawn counselling sessions and general discussions helped get the locals on board.
Speaking about the initiative, Shah said: “We began visiting the Filterpada slum colony around 5 am every Sunday, asking the residents to wash whatever plastic they possessed, such as milk and biscuit packets, and keep them aside. Gradually, we trained them into cleaning plastic and segregating waste. Now they’re totally involved in the campaign.”
The environmentalist sensitised people about the concept of “circular economy”, benefits of generating minimum waste, and maximum utilisation of resources to convince them to join the initiative.
Notably, recycling centres do not readily accept dirty or contaminated plastic, which then ends up in landfills. Therefore, it became imperative to first exhort the slum dwellers to clean the milk sachets and other such plastic waste. The volunteers would then come and collect them every Sunday.
On average, every week, Shah and his team collect 25 gunny bags full of plastic waste from the slum.
Speaking about the contributions of the residents of the slum, he said: This slum houses some 30,000 people. It would be impossible to clean the river without their support as they reside where Mithi River originates.