Champions of the Earth Award

Afroz Shah from Mumbai has been conferred the ‘Champions of the Earth’ award, the highest environmental honour awarded by the United Nations.

Mr. Shah, 33, who came up with the initiative along with his 84-year-old neighbour Harbansh Mathur (who has since expired), received the award at the 13th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Cancun, Mexico, on December 2.

The award is given to outstanding leaders from government, civil society and the private sector whose actions have had a positive impact on the environment.

Mr. Shah is a practising lawyer with the Bombay High Court and an active environmentalist who has been involved in protecting the city’s beaches and mangroves.

Started by a handful of local volunteers, the Versova Resident Volunteers (VRV) grew to become a group of 150 to 200 volunteers, who helped clean up the beach daily. They were supported and sponsored by celebrities, politicians and several government and private institutions.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has provided them with labour and machinery. The volunteers have cleared 4,000 tonnes of waste across the 2.5-km stretch of the beach so far.