New Delhi: Multiple layers of waste and muck all over, anti-social elements and drunkards occupying nook and corner, a beach minus the usual scenes of children playing, friends laughing, and people taking strolls, Chinu Jeet Kwatra was quite disturbed by the state of Dadar Beach in Mumbai when he first visited it in 2017. This 29-year-old resident of Thane then decided to transform the landscape of Mumbai’s forgotten beach and started the initiative of cleaning and beautifying it. He recalls,
I had some idea that the beach was dirty so I went to check it out with a few of my friends with an intention to do a little clean-up. However, I was horrified to see that the beach was nothing more than an open dump-yard.
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With Mahatma Gandhi’s message of cleanliness in his heart, the ex-marketing professional started dedicating his weekends to clean the Dadar beach. Soon his efforts started gaining popularity and more than 1500 people lent their support to his beach clean up. With a core team of 40 beach warriors, Chinu has been able to remove more than 2200 tonnes of waste in the past 102 weeks from seven Mumbai beaches – Dadar, Worli, Juhu Koliwada, Bandra, Madh, Erangal, and Cuffe Parade. While the beaches in Mumbai undergo transformation, Chinu has started working on spreading his efforts to other parts of the country.
Early Life And Journey Of Chinu Kwatra Is Nothing Less Than A Roller Coaster Ride
Born into an affluent family, Chinu had a happy childhood till a severe financial crisis hit his family when he was in the tenth standard. He was able to finish school against all odds but was not able to pursue higher studies immediately. After dabbling with multiple jobs and with the help of a student’s loan, Chinu enrolled in to a Bachelor’s programme and completed his double MBA (Masters in Business Administration) in 2014. When he started working as a marketing professional, he fulfilled his childhood aspiration of serving the society by co-founding a non-governmental organisation Aarna Foundation, with support from his cousin sister.
When things started to fall in place for Chinu, he faced another shock that life threw at him. He lost the love of his life in a terrible accident in 2014. He was completely shattered and decided to end his life. But his mother challenged him to go out and work for other people and realise the dreams of his late girlfriend. This proved to be a turning point in his life.
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Later in 2017, after working for three years, Chinu decided to quit his job and completely dedicate himself to work for the underprivileged sections of the society. His work started getting recognised and he was appointed as the District secretary of All India Council of Human rights, Liberties & Social Justice in 2017.
Today, Chinu is running three major projects- Beach Warrior, Roti Ghar and MARD (Menstruation- A Right To Discussion) which has been making an impact on the life of more than 1,100 underprivileged children and women by feeding nutritious food to the children and distributing eco-friendly sanitary napkins and menstrual cups to girls and women.
Beach Warriors On A Mission To Bring People Back To Beaches
Inspired by the Versova beach cleanup led by Afroz Shah, Chinu started visiting the Dadar beach on Sundays, picking up each little pile of garbage and dumping them in a truck provided by Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). He shared that they initially faced challenges in gathering support from Municipal Corporation but when he reached out to the young politician Aditya Thackeray and convinced him to lend his support, things became easier for Chinu and his team after that. They were provided with cleaning tools and waste pick-up trucks by BMC.
This young dude has completed 100 weeks of dedicated clean up… and not just here, he’s involved in clean ups, taking care of little kids, Pets, and going to flood hit and cyclone hit areas! https://t.co/QOfJjfXVyx
— Aaditya Thackeray (@AUThackeray) July 21, 2019
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After a tireless cleanliness campaign of about one-and-a-half years, Chinu’s army of beach warriors was able to bring the local residents and tourists back to Dadar beach. He said,
The biggest reason Dadar beach was in such a bad condition was that people had forgotten that this beach existed. They treated it as an open-dump yard. I remember Vinod Kambli once told me that he used to visit this beach with Sachin after practice. Only elderlies of this area remembered the past glory of this beach. Through our efforts, we have tried to bring people back. The view is marvelous. You can view Worli Sealink on one side and Bandra on the other.
As per the beach warrior, plastic bags and idols made from plaster of Paris (PoP) were found the most on the beaches. Talking about the kind of waste most collected during beach clean-ups, Chinu said,
Plastic waste was the biggest polluter of beaches. We expected this as we live in a country where people are highly dependent on single-use plastic bags. However, being an ardent devotee of Lord Ganesha, I was disheartened to find a large number of broken Ganesha idols as the second-largest pile of waste collected from clean-ups.
With an aim to reduce the pollution caused by idol immersion which forms an important part of various festivals in Maharashtra, Chinu, along with his friends, started ‘save the Ganesha’ campaign. Under this campaign, his team collaborated with BMC to ensure that the idols are re-immersed properly in artificial ponds without being immersed directly into the sea. The team has also started ‘Eco Bappa Morya’ campaign recently to promote eco-friendly idols for the upcoming Ganesh Chaturthi.
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Talking about the challenges faced by him in gathering the support of people, Chinu said,
Initially, I was constantly receiving cold responses from people to whom we were approaching for lending labour and financial support for running the clean-ups. We then changed our strategy and started directing our efforts towards educating the youngsters about the damage done by waste to our beaches. Gradually, the youngsters started joining us and also started bringing their family members to support the cause.
It was due to this support that Chinu conducted a 24-hour clean up drive at Worli Fort in which they collected about 200 tonnes of garbage. This feat was cheered by a large number of people and leaders of the country. This effort also earned a place in the Limca Book of World Records.
Having cleared almost 2200 tonnes of garbage till date, Chinu is confident that he, along with his volunteers will be able to make every beach in the country a clean and beautiful place.
Before signing off, Chinu shared that his biggest dream is to see India gain the tag of ‘Developed Nation’. He said,
When I was a child, I used to read in my Civics book that India is a developing country. We were told that India will become a super power in 2000/ 2010/ 2015. I used to wait for this to happen. But I think it is we who need to make this happen together. We all need to support each other, uplift the marginalised and protect the environment, to make India a developed nation and a super power. We must remember to uphold the virtues of humanity in all our actions. I just want to tell everyone ‘Insaan Bano’ (Be human).
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NDTV – Dettol Banega Swachh India campaign lends support to the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). Helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan, the campaign aims to spread awareness about hygiene and sanitation, the importance of building toilets and making India open defecation free (ODF) by October 2019, a target set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he launched Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in 2014. Over the years, the campaign has widened its scope to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and menstrual hygiene. The campaign has also focused extensively on marine pollution, clean Ganga Project and rejuvenation of Yamuna, two of India’s major river bodies.