New Delhi: ‘I feel defeated; I feel that I have let down my ocean and my country. I am sorry, I wanted to be a part of solutions and not become a problem,’ says disappointed Afroz Shah as he suspends one of the largest beach clean-ups the world has seen at Versova in Mumbai that lasted 109 weeks, for every Sunday. An emotional Afroz cited refusal of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for the past few weeks to collect the garbage cleaned up by the volunteers and the safety of the volunteers themselves, as the reasons for giving up on the weekly clean-up drive that caught the world’s attention. Speaking to NDTV he said,
It is my failure and I have no one to blame. I started this mission as I wanted to change the mindsets of people towards littering and why it is important to protect our oceans. Infrastructure and facilities can be built, but if the mindset is not changed then there is a problem and that’s why my campaign involves volunteers to come and do beach cleanup on their own. I attempted to make a change and if people are abusing the ones who have cleaned their garbage instead of saying ‘Thank You’, then I have failed miserably, as I couldn’t change their mindsets.
Highlighting the issue of garbage collection by the BMC, Afroz added,
Almost 50 truckloads of trash has not been removed since monsoon. We are cleaning the mess at the beach, but, it is not being cleared by the authorities. How are we supposed to fix this administrative lethargy? What’s the use of cleaning garbage from one point, if it is getting piled up at the other end?
Afroz Shah announced his decision to suspend the drive that has been applauded by the United Nations and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on social media, he said,
Week 109 cleanup. Volunteers abused by goons for picking up garbage. Administrative lethargy, non clearance of picked up garbage and abuses is what we are facing. World’s largest beach cleanup is suspended. Tried my best and I failed. Forgive me my ocean and my country.
Week 109 cleanup.Volunteers abused by goons for picking up garbage.Administrative lethargy,non clearance of picked up garbage and abuses is what we are https://t.co/ydEzp638C6 largest beach cleanup is suspended.Tried my best and I failed.Forgive me my ocean and my country. pic.twitter.com/XdFJMfZNeV
— Afroz shah (@AfrozShah1) November 19, 2017
The beach warrior signs off by saying,
I started this movement as a personal journey, I know I have failed, but, I have temporarily suspended the movement. I want the support from the BMC, the police, if they will start doing their bit towards the planet, I will start my 110th weekly cleanup.
Minutes after, Afroz Shah shared this news with netizens, Twitterati rose up in his support. Actor Dia Mirza added,
“Don’t give up @AfrozShah1. You inspire a productive public participation that few in this country have achieved or can imagine to achieve. You have many compatriots. Especially children. With you always.”
Don’t give up @AfrozShah1. You inspire a productive public participation that few in this country have achieved or can imagine to achieve. You have many compatriots. Especially children. With you always. https://t.co/c5K3JmaFo3
— Dia Mirza (@deespeak) November 20, 2017
Former Union Minister Gurudas Kamat also reacted to the suspension of the clean-up drive by Afroz and said, “Very sad to see despair in the Volunteers working for so long to clean up the Versova Beach led by Afroz Shah. We cannot allow the morale of citizen activists like him to be broken. I call upon the BMC Commissioner, DMC and AMC KWest to ensure regular garbage pick-up.”
He also added, “Request @AfrozShah1 not to give up please. We will make all efforts to ensure #BMC keeps up their part.”
Bittu Sahgal, Editor of Sanctuary Asia said, “Afroz you are a Mumbai hero. You never lose until you give up. Take it from me… when the apathetic officials are shunted out… you will still be there. This battle of yours crosses the oceans. You have compatriots everywhere. The young shall prevail.”
Afroze you are a Mumbai hero. You never lose until you give up. Take it from me… when the apathetic officials are shunted out… you will still be there. This battle of yours crosses the oceans. You have compatriots everywhere. The young shall prevail. pic.twitter.com/5i8AXfkxl6
— Bittu Sahgal (@BittuSahgal) November 20, 2017
In the course of the 109 weeks, Afroz Shah has cleared approximately 9 million kilograms of trash from the Versova beach. He received support from residents of the area and volunteers from across the city, including many celebrities, like Amitabh Bachchan.