murky waters

I wouldn’t enter the sea off Mumbai – it’s too dirty, says champion who has swum in all five oceans

United Nations Patron of the Ocean Lewis Pugh, who assisted in a clean-up initiative, says he has never seen so much litter on a beach.

In October, two exasperated residents of Versova in northwestern Mumbai decided that they were done with waiting for authorities to do something about the polluted beach near their home and organised fellow citizens to clean it up. The effort by Afroz Shah and Harbansh Mathur began at a small scale, but grew rapidly. Volunteers have come, weekend after weekend, to fight back the waves of plastic that kept washing up from the nearby Malad creek to Versova Beach, one of the smaller ones of the city.

Now, 43 weeks later, the movement of the Versova Resident Volunteers is still going strong. It might even be world’s longest lasting beach cleanup.

So says swimmer Lewis Pugh, who was in Mumbai over the weekend to lend a hand to their efforts. Pugh, the first person to have swum long-distance in all five oceans, is also the United Nations Patron of the Oceans. In this capacity, he advocates the health of marine ecosystems. One aspect of this is pollution, which he saw aplenty at Versova.

As an endurance swimmer, Pugh has conquered difficult aquatic conditions. He is the first person to have swum above the Arctic Circle in an attempt to raise awareness about melting ice caps. He has also swum in the Antarctic Ocean and in a melted Himalayan glacier.

But even with these impressive credentials, Pugh, in an interview to Scroll.in, said he would balk at taking a dip in the heavily polluted Arabian Sea off the shore of Mumbai.

Edited excerpts of the interview:

You have had a hectic two days cleaning Versova beach. What do you think of it?
It’s been hugely inspiring. India is a country of contrasts. I spent much of my life in the world’s most beautiful places in the Arctic, the Antarctic and the Himalayas, which are the last wilderness areas on the earth. I spend most of my time in these areas and Mumbai is hugely different.

What I’ve seen on the one hand has been so disgusting. I have never in my life seen so much litter on a beach, on any beach in the whole world. I have never gone down to a beach and seen lots of children and women defecating early in the morning.

And yet on the other side, I’ve never seen so much excitement, so much determination. It’s hugely inspiring that people have come together and said, "We are going to clean this beach". For most people it would be totally overwhelming. They see the amount of plastic coming in every day and they think, “How can we solve it?” The spirit of the people here is really exceptional.

How did you get in touch with the Versova Resident Volunteers?
Through Twitter. On World Environment Day I saw a picture of Versova beach and I was just shocked. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I’ve never seen pollution like this ever. I started following Afroz Shah on Twitter and I realised that this must be the biggest beach cleanup in history.

The biggest cleanups took place after wars. So we’re talking about Hiroshima, Nagasaki, the bombing of London during the Second World War, the siege of Stalingrad, Berlin. Then obviously after natural disasters – Haiti, the tsunami. But in terms of beach cleanups, I’ve never seen one that has gone on week after week – now for 43 weeks. Yesterday, there were certainly over 500 people. And the quantity of litter being picked up! I saw 20 big trucks just leaving. That’s huge.

What I hope is that this lights a flame in Asia – across the entire the subcontinent and the whole of Southeast Asia – so that communities look at their beaches and say, “We can also do this.”

Beaches are the points at which ocean and land interact, where people can get a glimpse of the debris in the seas. As a deep-sea swimmer, what do beaches mean to you?
What you see being washed up onto the beaches is a tiny fraction of what is going into the ocean. That’s what’s so frightening. I spend a lot of my time down in Antarctica, where there are big icebergs. And icebergs are 10% above the water and 90% below. What you see above the water is far less frightening than what you see below. It’s the same with this pollution. What is below the water is far more frightening than what is washed up onto the shores. It’s the sheer quantity of it.

What is the most polluted ocean you have swum in?
I would not swim here. The other day, I spoke to a fisherman who said that 20 years ago, he used to go across to the mangrove, dive into the sea, pick fruit and eat it. I haven’t seen one person get into the water here. The city has 20 million people and I haven’t seen one person swim. And let me tell you that India has some of the greatest long-distance swimmers in history. This country has produced incredible ocean swimmers. I haven’t seen anybody swimming in this water.

Maybe they are swimming down the coastline, but I certainly would not swim here. I think you’re taking your life into your hands.

Even more than, say, swimming in freezing temperatures?
That’s also dangerous, but that’s a risk I can manage. I can stay in the water for a certain period of time. I can get out and I can reheat myself. If you dive in that creek there, you are going to have water come into your mouth with very high levels of pollution and bacteria. I wouldn’t do it.

I dream about the day when I can come to Mumbai and swim along Versova beach. I think that if we can get local communities – business, government, the media – all working together, that day will come.

If you take one problem and multiply it by 1.3 billion people, it’s unsolvable. But if you take a problem and divide it by 1.3 billion people, it’s solvable. That’s my message to India, that everybody has to take personal responsibility for the oceans.

This is also a question of inter-generational justice, that we are living our lives in such a way that our children and grandchildren are inheriting a world that is not sustainable. There is something deeply unjust about that. We need to take time to pause and think about it.

Inter-generational justice is a concept we do not see very much of...
Perhaps, but when I looked at that beach, who was cleaning that beach? Mothers. Why were they doing it? Why were they not with their children today? Because they are there for their children. You don’t have to explain to those mothers from that fishing community about inter-generational justice. They grew up 20 years ago when the beach was sandy. They have seen the beach change and want to take it back to what it was.

We have got to start these cleanups on every beach, starting here in Mumbai, and then moving around the whole coastline in India. It has to happen.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

What’s the difference between ‘a’ washing machine and a ‘great’ washing machine?

The right machine can save water, power consumption, time, energy and your clothes from damage.

In 2010, Hans Rosling, a Swedish statistician, convinced a room full of people that the washing machine was the greatest invention of the industrial revolution. In the TED talk delivered by him, he illuminates how the washing machine freed women from doing hours of labour intensive laundry, giving them the time to read books and eventually join the labour force. Rosling’s argument rings true even today as it is difficult to deny the significance of the washing machine in our everyday lives.

For many households, buying a washing machine is a sizable investment. Oddly, buyers underestimate the importance of the decision-making process while buying one and don’t research the purchase as much as they would for a television or refrigerator. Most buyers limit their buying criteria to type, size and price of the washing machine.

Visible technological advancements can be seen all around us, making it fair to expect a lot more from household appliances, especially washing machines. Here are a few features to expect and look out for before investing in a washing machine:

Cover your basics

Do you wash your towels every day? How frequently do you do your laundry? Are you okay with a bit of manual intervention during the wash cycle? These questions will help filter the basic type of washing machine you need. The semi-automatics require manual intervention to move clothes from the washing tub to the drying tub and are priced lower than a fully-automatic. A fully-automatic comes in two types: front load and top load. Front loading machines use less water by rotating the inner drum and using gravity to move the clothes through water.

Size matters

The size or the capacity of the machine is directly proportional to the consumption of electricity. The right machine capacity depends on the daily requirement of the household. For instance, for couples or individuals, a 6kg capacity would be adequate whereas a family of four might need an 8 kg or bigger capacity for their laundry needs. This is an important factor to consider since the wrong decision can consume an unnecessary amount of electricity.

Machine intelligence that helps save time

In situations when time works against you and your laundry, features of a well-designed washing machine can come to rescue. There are programmes for urgent laundry needs that provide clean laundry in a super quick 15 to 30 minutes’ cycle; a time delay feature that can assist you to start the laundry at a desired time etc. Many of these features dispel the notion that longer wash cycles mean cleaner clothes. In fact, some washing machines come with pre-activated wash cycles that offer shortest wash cycles across all programmes without compromising on cleanliness.

The green quotient

Despite the conveniences washing machines offer, many of them also consume a substantial amount of electricity and water. By paying close attention to performance features, it’s possible to find washing machines that use less water and energy. For example, there are machines which can adjust the levels of water used based on the size of the load. The reduced water usage, in turn, helps reduce the usage of electricity. Further, machines that promise a silent, no-vibration wash don’t just reduce noise – they are also more efficient as they are designed to work with less friction, thus reducing the energy consumed.

Customisable washing modes

Crushed dresses, out-of-shape shirts and shrunken sweaters are stuff of laundry nightmares. Most of us would rather take out the time to hand wash our expensive items of clothing rather than trusting the washing machine. To get the dirt out of clothes, washing machines use speed to first agitate the clothes and spin the water out of them, a process that takes a toll on the fabric. Fortunately, advanced machines come equipped with washing modes that control speed and water temperature depending on the fabric. While jeans and towels can endure a high-speed tumble and spin action, delicate fabrics like silk need a gentler wash at low speeds. Some machines also have a monsoon mode. This is an India specific mode that gives clothes a hot rinse and spin to reduce drying time during monsoons. A super clean mode will use hot water to clean the clothes deeply.

Washing machines have come a long way, from a wooden drum powered by motor to high-tech machines that come equipped with automatic washing modes. Bosch washing machines include all the above-mentioned features and provide damage free laundry in an energy efficient way. With 32 different washing modes, Bosch washing machines can create custom wash cycles for different types of laundry, be it lightly soiled linens, or stained woollens. The ActiveWater feature in Bosch washing machines senses the laundry load and optimises the usage of water and electricity. Its EcoSilentDrive motor draws energy from a permanent magnet, thereby saving energy and giving a silent wash. The fear of expensive clothes being wringed to shapelessness in a washing machine is a common one. The video below explains how Bosch’s unique VarioDrumTM technology achieves damage free laundry.

Play

To start your search for the perfect washing machine, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Bosch and not by the Scroll editorial team.