MUSCAT, FEB 18 - The activists who ventured on a beach cleaning drive in Al Hail recently were shocked to find tonnes of plastic waste piled up on the beach. The mounds of debris included broken fishnets, containers, empty chips packets, pellets, cans and domestic waste dumped wantonly. Plastic waste has toxic pollutants that can damage the environment and cause land, water and air pollution. The clean-up initiative, supported by the local community, Royal Oman Police and Muscat Municipality, was spearheaded by members of a WhatsApp group called ‘Oman and Clean beaches’. The volunteers collected the mammoth volumes of plastic waste and disposed it of with the help of the civic body.
“Saturday’s beach clean-up drive done with a JCB was carried out by the volunteers from the social media group along with 10 helpers. We collected unbelievable amount of plastic waste which would have otherwise gone into the sea adding to the trillions of waste choking the sea mammals,” said Ammujam, a social worker who administrates the group, which has more than 60 different nationalities as members.
“Support from the local community and municipality was amazing. We collected huge fishing nets buried about 45 metres under the sand. These plastic materials have been polluting lands, rivers, coasts, beaches and oceans, posing serious threat to human beings.”
The members said that despite the local support, there were some issues while cleaning up the beach.
“One person complained that we had removed his net despite warnings against doing so. The man claimed he buried the net in the sand to protect it from rain and sunshine though they have sheds to keep the nets,” said Ammujam. The police were called and the fisherman demanded RO 800 as compensation for the damaged net.
“Issues like this could pose a threat to the efforts of voluntary organisations and NGOs. However, we have decided to go ahead with our environment campaign with the support of the civic authorities and the ROP,” she added.
“It’s incredible that a net was buried under the sand to protect it from the sun,” Sam, another volunteer, added.
Later, the ROP advised the local fishermen to remove any nets buried in the sand purportedly to protect them from rain and sunshine.
The volunteer group, with the support of stakeholders, will conduct an awareness campaign among the local people on the hazards plastic waste could pose to the sea and environment and seek their support to keep the beaches clean. “Very sad to see this generation being so ignorant and careless. We should enlist participation of local schools students and other local people in our clean-up programme and encourage them to create teams. Some clean-up contests would also be helpful,” Nirmala, another volunteer, said.
The campaign will cover topics such as hazards of nets being buried in the sand, marine life and eco diversity. “We will put forth a few suggestions to the municipality such as keeping litter boxes at a distance of 15-20 feet, which can be attractive and colourful so that it catches the eye. Additionally, a signage guiding the visitors and local community to dispose of plastic waste could be set up every 100 feet,” said Dr Rajyasree Ramankutty.