The story of Afroz Shah, who led the largest beach clean-up at Versova has inspired many Mumbaikars. Right from Juhu beach to our own Carters road shoreline is being cleaned. Anya Rangaswami led a team of volunteers on 4th of June to clean the carter road coastline. She has set up a page on facebook for volunteers to interact and RSVP. She hopes that this would be a weekly activity. I emailed her a few questions about the initiative.
1) what inspired you to come out with Carter Road clean up initiative?
Like so many people, I’ve been running on Carter Road and Bandstand regularly, since the sea makes for such a beautiful, calming sight while you run. What has always bothered me though, is the amount of plastic and other trash strewn over the sand and rocks, and wrapped around the trees. It was heartbreaking to see, and to imagine the damage the plastic waste is causing to the sea and to marine life. A couple of weeks ago, it finally got to me, I decided to do something about it, even if it meant cleaning up a little bit every week, myself.
I spoke about this to a few friends who recommended that I put it online. The response I got to a simple Facebook status just showed how many people felt the same way about the issue, but didn’t know where to begin. Since I work independently and have the luxury of planning my own time, I decided to just get started. A friend of mine got me in touch with Mr. Darryl D’Monte of the Bandra Residents Association, who in turn introduced me to Mr.Tambe who is part of the Solid Waste Management team at the BMC. Within a few days, we planned for the first clean up on June 4th, one of what we hope will be a weekly clean-up drive.
2) How was the first volunteer driven clean up on 4th of June? Were you happy with the work done?
We had about 40 volunteers come by and support us on Day-1, which I was thrilled about. I don’t think the sheer numbers mattered to me as much as the fact that this was clearly something people cared about and were willing to work for. While it was a small start, I think we made a difference. I loved how the clean-up felt less like activism, and was more about the community coming together for the love of the city and the sea. People arrived in small groups, with their friends and spent two hours chatting and cleaning. Families cleaned together- parents with their children… A lot of us were strangers to one another, but we all worked together towards a common cause. That in itself made me happy about the first drive.
3) what are the major challenges in keeping the Carter Road shore line clean? Do you plan to carry on cleaning at chimbai and bandstand too?
For one, I’m a Graphic Designer, with no experience with anything of this sort, so I’m basically taking each day as it comes, speaking with people who have done this before, and trying to learn as much as I can, as fast as I can.
The Carter Road coast line varies in terms of terrain, from the rocks and sparse mangroves at the southern tip (Near Otters Club) to the dense mangroves in the middle (opposite Railway Colony) and the sand and rocks at the north end (Opposite Cafe Coffee Day) Each of these areas needs to be dealt with separately, so we’ve split the clean up into phases.
Phase 1 (from the southern tip to the Titan monument) can be cleaned up by our volunteers with the help of the BMC, since it’s mainly dry waste and construction debris we’re dealing with. The same holds true for the northern end, where the beach is, which we’re taking on as Phase 2. What is a big challenge is the mangrove forest in the middle, where water has stagnated, waste drains into the sea and construction debris is dumped. We need to deal with this with the help of experts, looking for a way to clean the area without disturbing the ecosystem- removing waste without clearing the silt (which is what mangroves thrive in)
Another huge challenge of course, is creating awareness. While we can clean up the beach, the waters, the promenade, citizens need to maintain it. They need to be educated about the use of dustbins. We need to ensure public washrooms at the promenade are fully functional (and perhaps install another washroom at the southern end) to prevent public urination and defecation. The area needs to be lit better, and citizens need to feel safe about enjoying the natural beauty we’re so fortunate to have. This is a lot to do, but we understand and value incremental change, so we’re just getting started. Chimbai and Bandstand need attention to, but at the moment, are focus is on Carter Road. If all goes well, and we have the continued support of the BMC, the Bandra Citizens Group and our volunteers, I don’t see why we can’t tackle that next.