A group of beach lovers collected 1000kg of trash from some beaches in Salalah when they decided to be part of the World Beach Cleanup Day (September 18). Their decision to hit the beaches to clean them was timely because Salalah, till recently, had a sea of humanity visiting all the tourist spots, including beaches during the Khareef season.
Though mountains were the first love of the tourists during the season, those who visited the beaches were not all responsible tourists. Despite the civic body’s efforts to keep the beaches clean, huge masses of garbage were seen at most of the beaches.
The beach cleaners started for Mirbat early morning in 15 Jeep Wranglers, all part of Dhofar Jeep Club, as the volunteers were a mix of locals and expatriates. Some joined the cleanup drive in their personal cars, while many others chose carpool to reach the destination.
“Let's be honest, cleaning that beach on one day won't make a lingering difference for the beach itself. However, bringing the people together, raising awareness, spreading the word of ‘leaving nothing behind’ in our communities and on social media is my main aim,” said Augustin Delesalle, who is an engineer by profession.
Participants were a happy blend of Omani and expats of all ages, male and female, newcomers and experienced cleaners.
“Due to the high expected number of people, we chose a long beach to enable participants to spread in groups. Also, we had made sure that it could be accessible by the car evacuating the garbage bags. The most challenging job was to organise the logistics for 104 participants: Transportation, garbage weighing, garbage bags evacuation, snacks and drinks supply. But the entire organisation team did a brilliant job!,” said Augustin.
He agreed that plastic itself is not an issue. “Littering, overconsumption, linear consumption model are issues. We have to tackle the problem at its source. For that, a wise mix of pedagogy, rules, penalties and incentives must be implemented.”
Hugo Lopez Martinez, Salalah Adventure founder, found it an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of conservation of nature.
“This was our honest effort to raise awareness on beach cleaning as the materials left by the visitors at the beaches are dangerous for marine animals,” he said.
For Dr Upasana Venaik Malhotra, dentist at Lifeline Hospital in Salalah, “The main idea was to spread awareness about the alarming rise in plastic disposal in and around the beaches, how it is affecting the aquatic life and also increasing plastic dump waste which will not take minimum 5000 years to resorb...Expectation is to reach maximum awareness and involve maximum people possible, seeing so much of enthusiasm will eventually encourage generations to come and help in persevering the environment.”
“Participants range from all age groups, from 6-year-old to 70 years. People from all professions came forward to participate in the cleanup. This beach is non-commercial and still it’s alarming to see so much trash. The most disturbing things I found were the number of plastic straws, chips wrappers, and so many fishing ropes disposed of carelessly. What was heartbreaking was to see so many dead fishes on the shore,” she said.
“I think putting garbage bins after every two kms or so can help people to throw waste responsibly and also strict laws regarding fines for littering should be working,” Dr Upasana suggested.
The participants decided to do more such activities at tourist spots not only to keep the places clean but to protect the environment and save the animals from consuming plastic materials left at those sites.