As part of Mithi river cleaning project, ‘Turning the Tide’, lawyer-turned environmentalist Afroz Shah and volunteers from the Dawoodi Bohra community have removed 400 tonnes of plastic waste from just 200 metre stretch of the 18 km long river.
Having undertaken the project in November 2018, Shah and Taikhoom Mohiyuddin, trustee of the Burhani Foundation, had resolved to clean the river and the Dana Paani beach in Malad in the next five years.
This is the first time the Dawoodi Bohra community has pledged its support to a beach and river cleaning campaign.
Mithi River, which extends from Vehar Lake to the Bandra Kurla Complex, usually cleans itself during the monsoon. However, all its plastic waste ends up in the ocean. After undertaking the massive clean-up of Versova beach, Shah had trained his eyes on the river and found willing partners in Dawoodi Bohras, who, according to Mohiyuddin, believe in ‘holistic cleaning of environment and the inner self’. For the past five weeks, the Bohra community has been sending 60 volunteers from each jamaat to clean the river every weekend. ‘Not only are we on the spot doing the work, we are also going door to door to spread awareness about rejuvenating the river,’ said Mohiyuddin.
Before starting ‘Turning the Tide’, the campaign, according to Mohiyuddin, was promoted for five days through messages, public announcements and emails to members of 20 Dawoodi Bohra centres across the city. The cleaning process started in December and attracted volunteers from various fields. Mohiyuddin told Mirror that it’s important to create awareness about the need for clean water bodies. ‘We need to tell people that plastic is toxic. As planned in November, we have conducted sessions with school students from the community and tried to educate them on ways to reduce plastic waste in our daily lives,’ he said.
The aim, he said, was to reach as many people as possible and improve the lives of people living along Mithi River. After removing solid waste from the river, the aim is to deal with liquid waste. ‘We will contact local sewage treatment plants and tell them to only release clean water into the river,’ he said. The biggest challenge, according to Shah, is the slum dwellers living along the river. ‘They need to be sensitised towards the need for cleaner environment and told not to dump plastic waste into the river,’ Shah said, adding that in these past weeks they have also managed to involve 100 slum-dwellers in the project. ‘We have also received equipment like an excavator as donation. The BMC is providing trucks to collect the garbage and throw it in the dumping grounds,’ said Shah, adding that 20 trucks of garbage have already been moved for the 200 metre stretch, and it’s still a long way to go.