Mumbai: 21-year-old cleans Dadar beach, gets felicitated by the UN
A 21-year-old Mumbaikar, Malhar Kalambe, along with his friends initiated a drive to clean-up the beach in Dadar, in 2017. Since then, he has engaged more than 20,000 people from the city in the movement and has collected over 1,000 tonnes of trash thrown by the visitors on the beach. He was awarded by the United Nations for his exemplary work. Here's his story.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, "Be the change you want to see." Malhar also thought alike, and started 'Beach Please', a mission to change the condition of the beach in Dadar. "I have lived in the city for two decades. I have realized that the power to make a city better or worse lies with us. We cannot keep blaming the government authorities," he said.
In a conversation with The Better India, Malhar said, "It was during the Ganesh Visarjan when I saw how people are destroying the water bodies without giving any thought. I wanted to bring a change and that is how Beach Please was born."
In the past 87 weeks, Malhar, along with his team of volunteers, has collected over 1,000 tonnes of waste including plastic, religious offerings and stale food. However, he realized that cleaning up the beach was not enough as the original source of the waste is the 18km Mithi river, for which he launched his second mission a week before he was awarded by UN.
Mithi is one of Mumbai's oldest river systems. In a 2015 study, it was revealed that the river was made up of 100% sewage and absolutely no clean water. Interestingly, until the 1980s, the toxicity levels of the river were at their bare minimum. However, now, it has been abused and polluted to such an extent that it has transformed into a narrow drain.
"70% of the river has settlements that dump waste directly into the river. The river is connected to the beach and all the refuse gets deposited in the beach," Malhar noted. Every Saturday and Sunday, his team dedicates two hours to clean the beach and the river respectively. While for most of us the commitment sounds unachievable, Malhar has made it possible.
Malhar's efforts were recognized by the UN and he was awarded V-Award, initiative by the UN Volunteers India, on December 5, 2018. Upon receiving the award, Malhar said, "This award is a reminder that there is a lot to be done, and my cause is not limited to a beach. I am humbled and overjoyed to get recognition from such a prestigious organization."
Along with the award, UN authorities also organized a workshop, where pioneers like Malhar were taught how to retain volunteers, engage more people and expand the movement. "It is, by far, my biggest challenge. The same volunteers do not come every weekend. So, now my team and I have started to approach different colleges and corporates every week," Malhar added.
Malhar also acknowledged that attendance of volunteers is uncertain, so he requests "Mumbaikars to come forward and help make our water bodies waste-free." In order to join the initiative and help him clean the city of dreams, call on +91 91676 60403.