MUMBAI: All over the world beach fronts are most sought after as important and necessary recreational space for society, said United Nations environment chief Erik Solheimon Sunday. At Versova beach in Mumbai again after almost a year, to launch the World Environment Day 2018 events which India is hosting, he said, “first when I had come, it was unbelievable. Now things are better.”
“Avoid what you don’t need” is Solheim’s simple mantra to cut down plastic use, thus reducing its disposal in the absence of recycling tools.
With the theme ‘beat plastic pollution’, Solheim said, “people need to avoid what they don’t need and stop single use plastics such as straws, cups, plates, spoons. Stop buying two apples in a plastic tray and wrapped in plastic.’’ “The goal would be have artificial intelligence to produce plastic that is highly biodegradable and recycle all plastic.’’ Policy changes and business models need to change too he said, exhorting businesses to adopt an environment friendly stand.
Solheim, who officially inaugurated the divers team and special wet and dry segregation waste cycles made by thermoformers and allied industry association, as well as boats to clean up mangroves and creeks, addressed few thousands who showed up, bright and enthusiastic, early Sunday morning. He recounted a “moving story’’ that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had narrated to him when they met. Modi, he said told him of his “very modest’’ background and how when once his grandfather spoke of chopping trees in a forest for livelihood, it was Modi’s grandmother who rebuked him by saying, they may be poor but she forbade harming the environment and living things, just to make a living.
Both he and Afroz Shah, the UN earth champion who had started the Versova beach clean initiative 136 weeks ago, said “mindsets and habits need to be changed” at both individual and institutional levels to encourage environment friendly decision making. Solheim noted that Shah’s efforts have inspired people across nations to clean beaches and how plastic’s wrong use, across the globe is the enemy.
Dia Mirza, UNE, goodwill ambassador for India said, “It is time for us to see the plastic and the harm it causes us.’’ “I hope the theme doesn’t end on World environment Day,’’ she said. Dia said she believes in leading by example and has stopped using plastic toothbrush, replacing it with bamboo ones. She also uses bamboo ear buds and a metal water bottle, cloth bags for shopping only as well as bio-degradable sanitary napkins.’’
Among political leaders present included youth Sena leader Aditya Thackeray, Gajanan Kirtikar, Sanjay Nirupam and Bharati Lavekar. Thackeray said, “What the over two-year-long beach clean has really done is create a magical awareness among society. It will lead to great changes.’’
Nearly 5000 people turned up for the cleanup. School students, IIT Powai Engineering students from Abhyudaya IIT Bombay, a group that takes up social causes, beach cleaning being one, cadets and personnel from the Indian Coast Guard, Central Reserve Police Force and Rapid Action Force, as well as Corporate social response teams from various corporates including banks lined up in huge numbers to do their bit. It was CRPF inspector Paramjit Singh’s first visit to Mumbai and he plunged straight into the cleanup and the continuous lining of litter along the beach did shock him. “We arrived from Pune last evening, 200 personnel,’’ said Singh posted earlier in Punjab. “It feels sad to see the beach dirty. But it was a good experience.’’
A second year chemical engineering IIT student Mayank Chittora after pulling out a big crumbling plastic bag from the sand, said more solutions are required as the problem is immense. While another, a second year Design student Manas Vhanmane said, “We don’t remain clean by running away from the dirt but by taking time and effort to tidy our surroundings.’’