- The Centre has allocated Rs 75 crore for the programme
- A team comprising MoEF officials and Afroz Shah will shortlist the beaches
- The programme aims to secure Blue Flag accreditation for the beaches
The global waste and garbage crisis is not limited to just land. Incessant disposal of waste has become a critical problem for our waters as well. With over 5 trillion pieces of plastic floating in our oceans, the threat has never been so intense. The United Nations’ observing the World Oceans Day on June 8, 2017 was a reminder of the stark problems of garbage disposal threatening our oceans today. India’s beaches are no different. Indiscriminate disposal of waste has become synonymous with most Indian beaches today. The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), has finally decided to act by joining forces with beach cleaning crusader Afroz Shah to widen his movement and cover more beaches under the Versova cleanup model.
Mr Shah has been instrumental in cleaning the Versova beach in Mumbai and uniting volunteers to come together for the cleanliness drive. His beach cleaning endeavours saw 1,500 volunteers uniting for a common cause and clean up to 3 million tonnes of trash in almost 2 years. Mr Shah’s cleanup drive received praise from all quarters, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and United Nations Environment Project chief Erik Solheim. Mr Shah was also awarded the Champions of the Earth Award by the United Nations for leading the Versova beach cleanup. Seeing the success of Mr Shah’s cleanup drive, the MoEF has roped him in for his expertise. The project, which will be launched next month, will focus on 13 polluted beaches across India and follow the same model of community participation for cleaning these up, as followed by Mr Shah for Versova.
This programme will involve all stakeholders, including the Central and state governments, NGOs and volunteers so that their participation could be utilised. The implementation of the programme’s objectives will not be dependent on a single body or entity, said Mr Shah.
The MoEF has allocated a budget of Rs 75 crore for the programme. The ultimate aim of the programme will be to secure the Blue Flag accreditation for the 13 beaches. The Blue Flag accreditation is an international environmental and quality recognition. It is provided by Denmark based Foundation of Environmental Education and issued to beaches and coastal lines that meet set standards of waste disposal around beaches, maintenance of cleanliness and overall environmental quality. The Blue Flag accreditation was introduced in 1987 and has been awarded to over 4,000 beaches across 49 countries. India is yet to achieve the Blue Flag accreditation for any of its beaches.
With the launch of this programme, we are aiming for the Blue Flag accreditation for the 13 beaches that will be selected across India. The accreditation is a difficult one to achieve, and can take up to two years to get as cleanliness is not the sole criteria for a beach to be given the Blue Flag accreditation, said Mr Shah.
Mr Shah plans to travel with the team formed by the MoEF in identifying which beaches would be covered under the programme. In Mumbai, the beaches of Dadar and Mahim will potentially be a part of the 13 beaches. For the rest 11 beaches across India, the team comprising MoEF officials and Mr Shah will travel and look extensively at beach conditions. The beaches will be identified based not on reports compiled by concerned authorities but by physical visits undertaken by the team so that they get to understand the concerns and the problems first hand. Members appointed by the Ministry will visit the Versova beach in the first week of August, which incidentally will also enter its 95th week of cleanup. The members will study the Versova model and then with due consultation with Mr Shah, zero in on the final list of beaches.