For the last 43 weeks on every Sunday, With Them For Them (WTFT), a social working group of youth has been collecting waste from mangroves from the creeks in Navi Mumbai. The group has already collected over 50,000 kg of waste, including plastics, expired medicines, masks, gloves, syringes, and bottles.
The group has the support of the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) and Coastal and Marine Biodiversity Centre (CMBDC). They dispose of the collected waste scientifically. For almost a year, these youngsters, known as mangrove soldiers, have been continuously visiting Vashi and Airoli creek and cleaning trash from mangroves. They say that the work is a challenging one, and without support from people, it’s not easy to keep it clean.
Ashish Sawant, the founder of WTFT, shared that some of the injections and medicines dumped have yet to expire. WTFT started the cleanup drive of mangroves in December 2020. “The NMMC sent garbage collection vehicles on Saturday and Sunday for us,” said Sawant.
Till now, the WTFT had conducted the cleanup drive around Sagar Vihar in Vashi and Airoli. “Every Sunday, we conduct the cleanup drive in Airoli and on Saturdays, we visit Vashi, Ghansoli, among other places,” Sawant added. It started with 10 members, and now the WTFT has 60 volunteers.
Initially, the social group used to directly dump the waste collected from mangroves to NMMC waste collection vehicles. However, now they segregate and make use of the waste. “We use the plastic bottles collected from mangroves for plantation and the beer bottles for other decorations,” said Sawant.
According to Sawant, the WTFT is a catalyst in environmental protection, and it is the government’s responsibility to take action against people who throw biological or medical waste in mangroves. “During the clean drive in Sagar Vihar, we found cotton swabs during the Covid-19 period. People throwing it cannot be responsible citizens. They are playing with the lives of people,” Sawant signed off.
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