Every week a group of volunteers gather themselves near Vashi, Mumbai to collect plastic debris, thermocol, broken glass bottles, chappals, fishnets, chaddar and everything in between from the mangrove belt.
They call themselves the Mangrove Marshalls and remove more than 150 truckloads of harmful waste and garbage nearby the localities of Vashi.
Rohitt Malhotra, who started this initiative in 2018 along with his wife, friends and his son, says that even after cleaning up every week, the garbage is gathered in just a few days at the site.
Along with 15 regular participants and additional 200 volunteers who have joined this cause, this initiative is a big relief for the beaches that are littered.
During regular walks around the city, Rohit noticed that a lot of plastic waste was dumped in the pond or water bodies. The municipal workers cleaned the peripheries of the ponds or water bodies but they were not regularly cleaned from within. Rohit decided to take the lead and go ahead with this initiative that will cleanse the water bodies in those localities which were spotted by him.
After conducting a few clean-up drives, he realised that he would require municipal support. Various problems or concerns that were raised with the beach clean-up was that where would the debris be discarded after being collected.
They approached the NMMC (Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation) to help them to segregate as well as dispose of the debris after getting collected. The coordination of NMMC made it easier for them to segregate waste.
Another thing that caught his attention was that the mangroves adjacent to the holding ponds were turning yellow. Mangroves are totally dependent on the percentage of carbon dioxide in the air for its nourishment.
For this reason, the roots of mangroves grow upwards from the water towards the sky. Not only did he discover decaying mangroves along with his group, but found out patches where the mangroves were hacked for carrying on unlawful activities. This gave him a strong reason to form his group Mangrove Marshalls.
The difficulty involved in cleaning up mangroves is much more than a beach cleanup. The process of cleaning up mangroves cannot be mechanized as the area is quite slippery and marshy in certain places and one has to be extremely careful so that they don't damage the roots of the mangroves.
The process is extremely slow and the decaying debris, organic matter in the mangroves stinks so it becomes difficult to breathe under the canopy.
So far, 85 such cleanliness drives have been conducted by the group in the Mini Seashore and Sagar Vihar areas of Vashi alone. The group assembles at 7 AM every Sunday and cleans the holding ponds till 9.30 AM. "You will find kids from the age of 5 and 6 to older ladies who are 77 and 78 years old participating in our cleanliness drive," says Rohit proudly.
Despite the relentless nature of their initiative, Rohit Malhotra and his Marshalls have kept going. This hard work and consistency have found appreciation not only within the country but internationally as well. Indeed, it has earned them an award from the United Nations Environmental Programme for this effort.
This story has been received from Giving Circle. It is a platform that connects social change makers, donors, and volunteers. They are working to scale up these initiatives.