A city without waste is possible in India

India: Mumbai - the garbage paradise

SEND DATE Mon., 02/13/17 | 04:50 am | The first

Mumbai: This is how you imagine a chic metropolis on the Indian Ocean. Miles of beaches that invite you to sunbathe. But only from a distance. Afroz Shah fulfilled his lifelong dream two years ago. He buys an apartment with a sea view. But then the surprise:

"When I looked out the window, I saw a lot of rubbish. My eyes hurt. As a lawyer, I could have complained to the city administration. But then I said to myself: You are a citizen and jointly responsible. You do something yourself."

Namely: the beach clean. Every Saturday, every Sunday, two hours in the morning. Some neighbors lend a hand. "It was difficult in the first few months. We were only four or five people. But I didn't want to start a big movement."

Action "clean beach"

In the meantime it has become the largest beach cleaning movement in the world. Up to a hundred volunteers from the neighborhood follow his example, collecting rubbish and digging up plastic. Also there: celebrities from the Bollywood film industry. Slowly but surely the big goal is getting closer: the cleaning of the whole three kilometer long beach.

But there are many other Mumbai beaches. And the filthy rivers that wash urban waste into the sea.

Over ten thousand tons of garbage are produced in Mumbai every day. And there are far too few garbage dumps. Because the city is located on a peninsula and has chronic space problems. Tourism is also suffering from this. A tour operator complains that the garbage is a deterrent to foreign visitors: "The guilt is the indifference of the people and that of the city administration. Only when they specifically tackle the garbage problem will something change."

But why should she? There are poor people who live from garbage. Tarabai comes from the group of the "untouchables", in the Indian caste system this is the lowest layer that is traditionally responsible for waste disposal. "I collect between one hundred and fifty and two hundred kilos a day, separate it into plastic and paper and then sell it on."

Unfortunately, we cannot show how the resale works. Because the police intervene and stop the shooting. After all, such images do not fit the image of a modern city.

Creative recycling

Overcoming the waste crisis through education - that is Natasha D’Costa's concept. She buys recyclable rubbish - and shows school classes what can be tinkered with out of it. "That's the great thing about India. We are good at recycling. It's part of our culture. Right now we just produce too much rubbish. We have to learn the value of what we regularly throw away."

However, not all waste that ends up in the sea is suitable for art. Especially not the garbage that is man-made. The beach as a loo. For those who don't have one. After removing the plastic, this is the next challenge for lawyer Afroz Shah.

"The poor have no choice, the public toilets are super filthy. I could now file a complaint against anyone who shits in the ocean. Instead, I've made up my mind to clean the toilets myself."

But first the beach use is ended and the collected plastic is transported away. If that doesn't look like hard work, you just have to stop by for another weekend. On a rainy Sunday, for example. Afroz and most of the volunteers are back. And make it clear that the "clean beach" campaign is not a fair weather campaign.

Author: Markus Spieker / ARD Studio New Delhi

Status: 07/13/2019 10:20 p.m.