Last year, a friend and I had been toying with the idea of organizing a beach cleanup in Mumbai. I’ve been cleaning beaches for a while, usually picking up a bagful of stuff every time I pay a visit. Sometimes only 3 items (check out #take3forthesea on instagram). She saw one of my pictures and messaged me.
Even though summer had come early to Mumbai and we were hitting 40ºC + in April! (go ahead and tell me climate change isn’t real). we started scoping out a few sites. Chowpatty beach, our number one option was pretty clean, it seems the BMC has been doing a good job there for the past decade. So, that was a no go. Next we checked out a small spot opposite the aquarium. There was trash, but mostly flowers, and even in low tide the spot wasn’t too big. On top of that there was ongoing construction.
Somehow we ended up at the Bay View Marina garden at Cuffe parade. It seemed to check off all our boxes.
Covered in Trash? – Yes.
Large enough to host a cleanup? – Yes
Accessible? – Mostly
Free of Poop? – Ummm. Nope! – Unfortunately so many people in India still live without access to a toilet, and sometimes even when they do often prefer to go out in the open
So despite the poo situation, we picked the spot. In the meantime a friend just happened to put me in touch with Divya from Skrap. The timing couldn’t be better. Permissions fell into place super easily – I have to say, I didn’t think working with the BMC or the local corporator would be such a smooth or pleasant experience.
In the week leading up to the cleanup things got a bit crazy. I made a little graphic on Canva, (not exactly the best graphic, but hey, it was my first time) and shared it with a bunch of groups and on social media.
3 days went by and it was mostly people who said they couldn’t make it. I was so nervous, what if no one came? What if it was just Annuja and me, squatting on the rocks picking up trash? I had already placed the smallest possible order for facemasks, and 100 of them were arriving at my house soon. What was I going to do with so many?
By Tuesday, a few friends had said they would be there. So that wasn’t so bad. Annuja and I made a couple of site visits, once with the BMC and once after the Farmer’s Market with Divya. We figured out that we could use this time as a dry run and learn from it for when we plan to make it regular.
People who had seen the infographic were emailing , suddenly the registrations started rolling in. Okay, now I was nervous again. What if too many people showed up. What if there wasn’t enough trash (yes, for some reason I thought that was a serious concern)
Anu and I made a checklist, masks, gloves, bagasse glasses for lemonade, lemonade (duh!), a tarp for sorting the waste and finally old cement sacks for collecting the garbage in.
Everything in hand by Saturday evening, except the tarp, I went to bed early. I needed to be on time for starters and no matter how much I try, I am just not a morning person. As it goes, I didn’t sleep that whole night. I had dreams, no nightmares, that it had rained and everything was ruined.
Woke up, got to the site, and I swear one person had shown up early, in Mumbai? Like I said earlier, I was afraid that there wasn’t enough garbage for everyone so we did a bit of a walkabout scouting the shoreline for a “trashier” but came back to our original plan.
But once we started cleaning there was so much. The pieces were small and wedged between the rocks that were piled up to break the tide. Things went incredibly. There were over 30 of us cleaning up (Including some lovely girls from the Udayan Shalini Foundation), filling bag after bag with milk packets and ghost nets. In the end we picked up 50 bags of trash. It isn’t even a dent in the amount of plastic waste that litters our shorelines, but it’s a start.
Stay tuned, because we’re planning the next one, and you are invited! Leave your details here so that we can keep you updated.