Historic moment as Olive ridley turtles return to Mumbai’s Versova beach after two decades

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Photo credit: Afroz Shah/Twitter
Photo credit: Afroz Shah/Twitter

In May 2017, we had reported about the massive cleanup of Versova beach in Mumbai led by a young lawyer, Afroz Shah, that was billed by the United Nations as the “World’s largest beach clean-up.” Over a 21-month period, the shoreline was ousted of trash weighing up to 11 million pounds with the help of over 1000 volunteers.

Frustrated by the plight of the ‘dirtiest beach in Mumbai’, Afroz along with his neighbors rallied the local community to take part in weekly cleanups of the 1.5mile long beach and the results were stellar. Not only did they accomplish the task, the citizens tried to maintain the cleanliness of the beach by doing regular cleanups.

During one such regular cleanup campaign last week, the volunteers spotted more than 80 hatchlings of the Olive Ridley turtles crawling towards the Arabian Sea. It was a historic moment, as the turtles were spotted nesting on the Versova beach after almost two decades!

Olive Ridley turtles are recognized as an “Endangered species” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. They are the most abundant and smallest of all the sea turtles found in the world and are unique for their mass nesting phenomenon called Arribada (Spanish for ‘arrival’). During this nesting event, thousands of females come together on the same beach over a period of 5-7 days to lay eggs and after about 45-65 days, the eggs begin to hatch and the Olive-ridley turtle babies make their first trek towards the ocean. During the initial journey of the hatchlings towards the ocean, they are exposed to many predators like birds, fiddler crabs, feral dogs.

When Afroz became aware of the news of the Olive-ridley hatchlings in Mumbai, he reached out to conservation officials who rushed to the scene and kept guard and patrolled until the hatchlings got a safe passage into the sea.

It is an excellent development indeed and Shah is determined to improve the shoreline further and convert the beach into a habitat that appeals to all marine species. He plans to plant more than 5,000 coconut trees along the shoreline.

Says Afroz shah, “Clean, decent environment is the only heritage which you are going to pass on to the next generation. I hold it in trust, for the next generation, and if you are NOT going to do it now, it will NEVER happen. This is the time.  This is NOW. I would request all Mumbaikars if they could replicate this model, all over the 19 beaches.”

Would the eco-warriors in Mumbai, please stand up?

Source: mnn.com, Twitter, www.wwfindia.org