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From Mumbai With Love - Afroz Shah

Presented By: Rivers Are Life
"I always strongly believe a person in 21st century is the one who was defined by his garbage."

Champion of the Earth

In Hindi, the word for “sweet” is Mithi. Mithi is also the name of Mumbai’s largest river, but its waters – concealed beneath a veil of floating plastic – are anything but sweet. 

“Wherever people have chosen life of convenience and comfort, these problems have erupted,” says Afroz Shah, lawyer and founder of the Afroz Shah Foundation

The Mithi River originates inland at Vihar Lake. After an 18-kilometer journey past everything from slums to 5-star hotels to skeletons of once-thriving mangroves, the river drains into Mahim Bay, where it ultimately joins the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. 

Mithi River

The Mithi River (Pronunciation: [miʈʰiː]) is a river on Salsette Island, the island of the city of Mumbai, India. It is a confluence of tail-water discharges of the Powai and Vihar lakes. The river is seasonal and rises during the monsoons. The overflowing lakes also contribute to the river flow, which is stopped by a dam at other times. During this season, the gutter is a favourite with anglers, who can catch large fish that have escaped from the lakes. Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport is located right next to the section of river at Andheri (E). (Source: Wikipedia)

Taking Responsibility

“When you’re young and somebody shows you the ocean, there’s a grin, there’s a smile, there’s a happiness in your head, in your eyes,” says Shah. “… I’ve played here; I’ve swam here in this water. The way India functions pre-’92 is different. We had no malls, you had no theaters, you had lesser plastic.”

“We are all responsible. It cuts across all economic straight to all social upbringing and everything,” says Shah.

The Mithi River has become an open sewer within the past few decades. Wastewater, industrial waste, and unauthorized dangerous waste have been dumped thoughtlessly into its waters. The pollution from single-use plastic has only compounded the issue.


Lucro, an India-based recycling company, is producing polyethylene film solutions made from locally collected, difficult-to-recycle plastic scraps – including some of the waste collected by Afroz and the volunteers. This film is used as a protective covering in the community.

Lucro works with Dow to develop this recycled film – and is supported by Circulate Capital’s Ocean Fund, which works to avoid plastic waste entering the ocean and advance the circular economy in South and Southeast Asia.

Building The Foundation

“If you allow this plastic to go into the ocean or develop into what we call ocean gyres – huge plastic islands – and fishes swallow this, birds ingest it, and it is a catastrophe for them,” says Shah. 

That’s why Shah started the Afroz Shah Foundation: to reduce and refuse plastic; to bring behavioral changes; and to create zero garbage communities. His love for the environment, his country, and our planet inspired him to start doing beach cleanups. 

“When you say you love, then you put something in motion,” says Shah. 

“We’ll keep on saying we love [the] planet,” says Shah. “We want to be the change; I want to see the change. But if you’re not taking even a small step, what’s the point of this journey? This Gandhian philosophy is about aligning ourselves with nature, with love, and getting everybody involved.”

He is also collaborating with multiple Indian startups, including Lucro and Saltech, to reimagine the way Indians use plastic and to create a circular economy. A major project Shah is working on is converting collected waste plastic into paver blocks to be used in construction. 

No matter how small we may think we are, Shah urges that it’s up to us to do something.

200,000 Volunteers

And 168,650 (91 schools / colleges) students regularly working on roster system (weekly basis) to clean beaches, mangroves, rivers.

60+MM Kgs of Waste

Plastic and filth removed from the Ocean, Beaches, Creeks, Rivers, Forests in the last 6 years.

348 Weeks

Spent rejuvenating River Mithi – cleaning up of the river and training people living on the banks of the river for the circular economy.


Visit the Afroz Shah foundation website to learn more and support this amazing effort.

Join The Movement

We invite you to join the Rivers Are Life movement and be part of a new era of modern exploration highlighting the wonder of our planet’s rivers, the humans and wildlife that call them home, and the issues that threaten this vital natural resource. Together, we can learn, understand, and inspire the action that will lead to real change.

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