March 10th, 2017
Tripping to a beach outside the country is a great way to spend a holiday. Taking a dip in the ocean, one feels energised, rejuvenated and happy. However, for Mumbaikars, the situation is slightly different as the beaches there are filled with plastic, garbage and human faeces. It’s a very rare sight to see children playing on the beaches and going for the swim in the oceans.
Concerned with the scenario degrading the environment and polluting and depleting coastlines and water bodies, the Water Conservation Community swung into action and took up the charge to clean up the rivers, oceans, lakes, beaches and coastlines connecting the community with water.
The Logical Indian interviewed Professor Omkar Bhatkar who is a professor in St Andrews College in Mumbai and a part of Earth Volunteer Training. Earth Volunteers are the volunteers that help protect and conserve the earth. Ms Shibani Sachdeva, lead associate of Joy of Water and Dr Omkar Bhatkar help connect students from different colleges with an aim to educate them about the environment.
Here are some snippets of the interview.
What is the Chimbai Beach Clean Up Project?
Chimbai Beach Clean Up Project is a party of Water Conservation Community (WCC) which is a movement of citizens to help clean oceans, lake, rivers and coastlines thereby connecting and engaging the community with water. WCC surveys the coastlines and collects pictures and data about their present condition. The Chimbai beach at Bandra is the dirtiest and polluted beach. We wanted to do something, so we invited colleges of Mumbai to adopt coastlines, beaches by cleaning them on weekends. Since it is an unconcerned activities for commoners, we decided to make it exciting by inviting the students to write poems on ocean, photographies, ocean mascots and paintings. The idea behind this cleanup and such activities was not just confined to cleaning beaches but also to shake their consciousness. We were happy to see more than 150 students participating in the clean-up drive on Sunday morning at 7 AM and 100+ students participated in the various competitions.
On 19 February, we began our journey with a mini-beach clean up at Chimbai beach. Poetries were written, paint was spilled, and photographs were captured all as the Earth Volunteers geared up in their gloves and masks and took to the dirt filled shores to try and gather the dump.
How did you gather the crowd and persuade them to clean beaches?
I am part of “The Earth Volunteer Training”. We “Earth Volunteers” are the volunteers that help conserve and protect the earth. In fact, St Andrew’s College is the first college to open up this training to the students. We also go to different colleges, speak to students, and persuade them to be a part of it. We stress the importance of actions through inspirational documentaries and clips which help them understand the global scenario of water conservation. These stories inspired students and encouraged them to be a hero that they seek from the world.
How do the volunteers collect waste and what happens to the trash you collect?
The volunteers themselves go and pick the garbage by hand. They pick all the solid waste and put it in a bean bag. We provide them with brooms, face masks, and hand gloves with the help of MCGM. So far we have collected 600kg of waste. The Bombay Municipal Corporation is very supportive of the endevour and the MCGM H west ward of Bandra is a strong pillar of the Chimbai Beach Clean Up Movement.In fact, few workers of BMC also helps us clean beach with students.
Cleaning beach is a continuous process. How are you planning to sustain it?
It is difficult but we have devised a plan, and on rotational basis a college will take care of cleaning the beach. So there are 12 colleges involved who will take up the charge to clean beaches on a tri-monthly basis. This way, we will be able to sustain it. .St Andrew’s college is an active supporter for Chimbai Beach Clean Up Project. And now the movement is supported by 25 colleges of Mumbai. To name a few, Siddharth College of Arts and Commerce, Lala Lajpat Rai College, KC College, MMK College, LS Raheja , Sydenham College.
As per you what are the main reasons that plague our oceans?
There are multiple reasons. Often, we don’t know what material we use. We dump plastic which takes ages to decompose. Also, Chimbai is a bay and has become a dumping ground for construction sites. There is only debris. Further on a stretch of one kilometer, there are no public washrooms, so auto rickshaw drivers come to relieve themselves here. Chimbai beach is filled with stench of defecation and human excreta. However, its not a blame game and we need to create public washrooms and take awareness programs around.
What can we do as an individual to sustain our environment?
We as a person are not conscious of how we are discarding the things we are using. It is important to know what we are using and how plastic takes ages and ages to decompose. We can avoid as far as possible the use of plastic. We can be conscious of the waste that we create and try to reduce our carbon footprints
How can government intervene and help in this?
The government is already doing their part. Without the MCGM H West Ward support, we wouldn’t have been able to come so far. It is the citizen who is unattached from the environment. The main motive behind them was to shake their consciousness and help them connect with nature.
Any concluding words for our readers?
The Education system cultivates a sense of making careers. There is nothing that creates consciousness in our mind to be sensitive for the ecology. Very less number of people know that about 70 percent of the oxygen, comes from the ocean, but we have no gratitude towards it, and we don’t know much about marine diversity and ecology. It is my sincere plea to the people especially the youth to start connecting with the environment around and more importantly be able to fall in love with the blue planet.