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World Environment Day: Sea returns trash in Mumbai

Aditi Tandon, Kartik Chandramouli | Updated on: 5 June 2018, 15:05 IST
(Kartik Chandramouli/Mongabay)
  • Today is the World Environment Day. “Beat plastic pollution” is the theme for this year.
  • Every year before the monsoon, due to the wind direction and ocean currents the sea deposits the garbage thrown into it back on to Mumbai’s beaches.
  • With garbage mainly consisting of plastic wastes, the sea is reminding the citizens of city of their promise on this World Environment Day.

Each year before monsoon, Mumbai’s ocean purges out what its residents have mindlessly disposed off as garbage into its water bodies. The sight of the popular Juhu beach in the western suburbs of the city, currently tells the story of Mumbai’s long battle with plastic waste and its struggle with a garbage disposal system that seems to be always under capacity, given the gargantuan requirements of the metropolis.

Wave action and strong winds before monsoon cause trash from ocean to be washed ashore. The trash primarily includes plastic waste along with other household and personal use items that have been discarded into the city’s drains, rivers and creeks and ended up in the sea. The civic body has intensified its cleaning efforts, even hiring private contractors for the massive cleanup job required on Juhu beach.

A recent picture of Juhu beach in Mumbai, one of the most popular beaches in an upmarket neighbourhood in the Indian metropolis (Kartik Chandramouli/Mongabay)
Before monsoon at Juhu beach in Mumbai, a layer of garbage comprising plastic waste and other trash including shoes and bags, discarded by the city into its water-bodies, returns back to the shoreline. This has become an annual occurrence. (Kartik Chandramouli/Mongabay)
In the run up to World Environment Day, cleanliness drives are being conducted on Juhu beach. A private company that got the tender to clean the beach, had deployed vehicles and manual labour to perform the task from early morning to midnight and citizen groups have been actively contributing too. (Kartik Chandramouli/Mongabay)
A family reviews photographs they have taken on their evening out. The beach is widely popular among tourists, including many from various parts of the city. (Kartik Chandramouli/Mongabay)

The task of a clean Juhu beach is on everyone’s priority list – the local government has deployed vehicles and manual labour to clean up the beach every day, citizen volunteer groups have conducted clean up drives on the beach, Bollywood stars are lending a hand and their social media voices pushing for a clean beach that lines the tony neighbourhood of Juhu where many of them reside. Despite these efforts, nature reminds the city each year that the enormity of the problem is now perhaps beyond these well-meaning actions and a more sustainable and permanent solution is needed.

Single-use plastic items form a huge portion of the garbage on the beach. (Kartik Chandramouli/Mongabay)
A rag-picker scans the waste for plastic bottles. (Kartik Chandramouli/Mongabay)
An evening walk/run continues at the beach, wading through garbage. (Kartik Chandramouli/Mongabay)
Visitors move around the beach barefoot, which also increases the risk of injuries and other health hazards that comes from being in direct contact with the garbage. (Kartik Chandramouli/Mongabay)

Municipal waste in Mumbai was reported to have dropped by 20% over four years. However, the city still generates about 7,700 tonnes of municipal waste per day, a significant chunk of which is plastic. In March this year, Maharashtra declared a ban on plastic bags and single-use plastic in the state. The ban, which is to be enforced towards the end of this month, has largely been welcomed but criticised by activists for its weak implementation plan and by the plastic industry for focusing on the material rather than the disposal which they claim is the real problem.

The beach is outlined by heaps of garbage collected after the cleaning process. Juhu beach faces this problem every year due to improper and mismanaged garbage disposal. (Kartik Chandramouli/Mongabay)
A jogger manoeuvres his way through garbage scattered along the entire stretch. (Kartik Chandramouli/Mongabay)
The civic authorities have intensified the clean-up action on Juhu beach. A private company has been deployed for the task which is using five JCBs, five lorries and 50 labourers to clean the beach. (Kartik Chandramouli/Mongabay)

Today, June 5, is observed as World Environment Day. India is the global host for the Day this year, leading the charge to “Beat Plastic Pollution”, the theme for 2018. World over, activities are being conducted to commemorate this day, designated by the United Nations in 1972 and first celebrated in 1974. The issue of plastic pollution has probably never had as much global attention. India, with its designation as the leader of action against plastic, has clearly come a long way. Watching tourists, joggers, hawkers and families traverse across the layer of garbage across the sands of Juhu beach though, it’s evident that India yet has a long way to go.

The article first appeared in Mondgabay.

First published: 5 June 2018, 12:34 IST