Two years ago the Mumbai HC lawyer Afroz Shah initiated a movement called the Versova Residence Volunteers that every weekend has been cleaning up the Versova Beach in Mumbai. From a handful of activists it has now become a mass movement of concerned citizens who over this period has removed millions of tons of litter from the beach, of which 95% is plastic. Afroz Shah and the VRVs are now seen as a model for the UN Environment organization’s work to involve people of all walks of life to take responsibility for the environment and the Oceans. Afroz Shah and the VRV were awarded the UN’s highest environment award “Champion of the Earth 2016”. Their work has resulted in several other national and international awards. In the first half of October Afroz Shah is speaking at an EU conference in Malta, at a conclave in Paris and international youth conference at Sochi in Russia. Several TV documentaries have been made that have highlighted the plight of the oceans and the urgent need to take immediate action. Even PM Modi, in his regular radio talk, has given Afroz Shah and the VRV credit for their work. Other high profile appearances, last Friday, a two hour TV program hosted by Bollywood’s super star, Big B – Amitabh Bachchan, have raised the awareness of the environment and the plight of the oceans. Changing the mindset of people, to become aware that caring for the environment and the Oceans, is also a personal responsibility, is one of the VRV’s greatest mission. Working together with schools to teach the students the importance of this and let the students be the agents of change by teaching their parents and neighborhood to care for the environment is not just the responsibility of the authorities but for all.
The Norwegian Consulate General in Mumbai has been actively involved in Afroz Shah and the VRV mission the last 15 months. Now we are taking the cooperation a step further by focusing on environmental awareness through working with local Versova schools. It’s a huge task that we invite other Consulates General in Mumbai to participate in and show Afroz Shah and the VRVs that they have the full support of the international diplomatic community in their endeavor to make an environmental impact for generations to come.
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