Thanks to 127 weeks cleanup, Olive Ridley turtles are back on Mumbai beach after 20 years

May 28, 2021
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Nothing is impossible, really. It has been proved by a bunch of environmental activists and volunteers who took up the arduous task of cleaning Mumbai’s Versova beach, making it one of the biggest beach cleanup exercises in the world. As their effort entered the 127th week, the team got a real surprise. They saw what they thought the once pristine beach of Mumbai has lost forever. On the World Water Day, celebrated across the globe on March 22 (Thursday), the activists and volunteers while cleaning the beach saw hatchlings of a species. They immediately informed about their “discovery” to the state forest department.

The officials, on their part, confirmed that the hatchlings belong to Olive Ridley turtles. The finding of the hatchlings holds great importance as the Olive Ridley turtles returned to Versova beach after a gap of 20 years. The reason behind the “historic feat” is the Versova cleanup campaign started by lawyer-turned-activist Afroz Shah. Thanks to Shah and his friends and supporters who have been cleaning the beach for the last 127 weeks because of which the beach got back its former avatar.

After the sighting of at least 80 babies of Olive Ridley turtles, an excited Shah broke the “fantastic” news on Twitter. “Week 127. Fantastic news for Mumbai. We got back Olive Ridley Sea Turtle after 20 years. Historic moment. Nested and Hatched at our beach. We facilitate their journey to ocean. Constant cleaning helps marine species.Marine conservation centre needed at @versovabeach,” Shah tweeted.

“Olive Ridley turtles existed in all beaches of Mumbai 20 years back. They come to nest, hatch and go back. When they hatch they have to go into the sea immediately. They come back to the place they were born to nest and hatch. For the past 20 years, there was no sighting of Olive Ridley turtles. Now, with the campaign on freeing ocean of marine debris, automatically the turtles come back. Along with my volunteers, I have removed 13 million kgs of plastic. This is a personal journey for me and the volunteers to connect with the ocean. This journey will continue till we get our ocean and marine species back in our life,” Shah said.

The Olive Ridley sea turtles are also known as the Pacific Ridley sea turtles. They are mostly found in warm and tropical waters like in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans. Olive ridley turtles–the smallest and most abundant sea turtles–are known for their unique mass nesting called Arribada, where thousands of females come together on the same beach to lay eggs, years after years. In fact, the coast of Orissa is the largest mass nesting site for the Olive Ridley turtles, followed by Mexico and Costa Rica.

The Versova beach cleanup drive was started by Afroz in October 2015. According to reports, he and his team members, consisting of 1,200 people, cleaned up over 9 million tonnes of garbage from the beach.

Happy to learn about the return of Olive Ridley turtles on Versova beach, an elated Erik Solheim, the head of United Nations Environment Programme, said, “The cleaner our beaches, the more life will thrive!”

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