Afroz Shah is a young Indian lawyer from Mumbai whose name is synonymous with the world’s largest beach clean-up project. In 2016, the UN awarded their top environmental accolade, the Champions of the Earth Award, to Afroz for his work in cleaning up Mumbai’s Versova beach.
For more than three years, Afroz has been leading volunteers in manually picking up trash from Versova beach and teaching sustainable waste practices to villagers and people living in slums along the coastline and the creeks leading into it.
WhatsApp is a key vehicle...for communicating the dates, time and location of the cleanup
The movement has grown to see over 70,000 adults and 60,000 students come together over three years to help rid the beach of trash. The increase of volunteers is largely due to Afroz’s efforts on social media, of which WhatsApp is a key vehicle being used across all denominations and social strata - particularly for communicating the dates, time and location of the cleanup. Afroz chooses Broadcast Lists as his favorite feature for communicating the details of the clean-up, which then spreads as recipients pass the message along via their own contacts and groups.
Afroz also uses WhatsApp groups as a coordination tool with various core groups associated with cleanups. These include civic body, corporate and extended producer responsibility (EPR) groups.
The biggest pay-off for the campaign came when olive ridley turtle hatchlings were spotted on the beach. At least 80 olive ridley turtles made their way into the Arabian Sea from nests on the southern end of Versova beach.
Not only has the movement brought marine litter to the attention of decision-makers, it is also starting to win back the beach, with less and less trash appearing each month.