For the first time in nearly two decades, a beach in Bombay – one of the most populous cities in the world – is teeming with tiny turtles, proving that life really does find its way.
Versova Beach stretches along the eastern side of Mumbai, overlooking the Arabian Sea. Olive ridley turtles nest on other beaches in India, this is the first time in almost 20 years that they do so in Bombay, with around 90 hatchlings reaching the sea.
What makes this story even more surprising is that until about three years ago, Versova beach was a dump. Literally. Plastic flooded the shore, people dumped their trash on the beach, and sewage pipes dumped directly into the sea. Trash covered the sand, which according to some reports reached up to 1.7 meters deep in some places. People didn’t swim in the ocean, they swam in plastic.
But in 2015, a young lawyer named Afroz Shah decided that he had had enough. What he and an 84-year-old neighbor started turned into a weekly event that was supported by the UN, more than 1,000 volunteers and grew into what is considered one of the largest beach clean-ups in the world. In just a few years, they had collected around 5,500 tons of garbage, completely transforming the 2.5 km of beach.
It was only recently that Shah’s hard work paid off in a way that she hadn’t imagined, as on her last day of beach cleaning with other volunteers, they saw hatchlings sneaking through the sand and running out to sea. Before calling the authorities, he made sure that the turtles reached the sea safely.
“ We found around 90-95 olive ridley hatchlings… and the volunteers released them into the sea . The turtles have returned to the Bombay coast after nearly 20 years. This is great news and the cleanup campaign seems to be paying off . “
Although the olive ridley turtle is the most common sea turtle, it is still classified as “vulnerable” by the IUCN. They nest on other beaches on the Indian coast and return to the same where they were born, but not near as densely populated places as in Bombay. Here’s hoping more will return year after year.
And if you ever need motivation, think about what a single person can do to help the environment, this is Shah’s story: