Vast, pristine, sandy beaches and fresh, frothy tides that keep chasing each other at the shores are soothing sights at the beaches of the Sultanate. However, the irresponsible behaviour of many beachgoers creates a bad situation by leaving litter, trash, broken nets etc at the beaches and thereby endangering the marine creatures.
A cleaning campaign conducted by a local NGO on the Al Hail beach found several kilos of waste comprising abandoned fishing gear, items like nets, ropes, hooks, weighing machines, tyres, foam sheets and cigarette butts.
“Littering on the beaches is a very serious matter and one of the major concerns as it harms the marine environment. From one of our cleanup campaigns around the Al Hail area that leads to the beach, we collected 1,078 cigarette butts in less than 45 minutes. Added to it, this area was littered by the skewers which were very prominent, most likely due to the food trucks around the area,” Ammujam Raveendran from ‘Save Our Beaches’ said.
From this particular beach area where they carried out seven cleanups when the beaches were closed in October/November, they collected more than 400 bags, mostly containing picnic waste, and the site is majorly used to throw construction waste. The beach-cleaners who are beach and environment-lovers, felt one of the major reasons for the huge trash in Al Hail beach is the lack of skips for fishermen and trash bins for the public.
The Ras al Ruwais beach, which is distinguished by the protective wall of the desert on the side usually has a mix of emerald and turquoise water, is a trash bin for many visitors.
A scouring task of nearly half an hour on the beach fetched around 85 bags filled with plastics from the surface covering just less than 1/4th of the beach and the next day, the task was completed by municipality staff members who were on duty at the beach along with members of be’ah.
“Ras al Ruwais is a beautiful picnic spot, but no garbage bins were found there. All we could find was an empty garbage bin on a beach filled with plastic, oil cans and the like. The sand on the beach was black where the waves hit during the high tide, which could be the result of emptying the engine oil cans in the sea or some remains of such engines and other machines,” volunteers said.
The sand from the main road down to the beach is filled with large black bags which people leave behind as there are no bins. Collection of waste from this location is equally posing a challenge because only a 4×4 vehicle can access the beach.
The volunteers of this NGO have conducted nearly 100 cleanups in all. They did the cleanup 79 times at Al Hail beach, one in Ras al Ruwais, three in Masirah.
“Surprisingly all the trash and litter at all the three beaches are distinctly different. The trash on Ras al Ruwais beach is very different from Al Hail beach. The stuff found at Al Aija beach, Shanzi island and Shanzi beach in Masirah Island were different too.
“As many as 103 volunteers from Muscat and elsewhere of different nationalities gathered on January 15 and 16 at the beaches of Masirah Island from morning till evening and the result is, the collection of more than 200 green bags of trash.
“The trash was a mixed bag including plastic bottles, remains of nets and nylon ropes and tarballs. We feel that a lot of the trash could have been washed over by the waves or the nets and ropes may have been removed in earlier cleanups, leaving behind the smaller pieces.” From the Al Rasia island and the beach, a beautiful picnic spot, around 68 volunteers collected 72 bags of trash consisting majorly of plastic bottle caps, plastics.
The area is strewn with nets buried under huge rocks which is quite impossible to remove without the use of machines and can only be removed with the help of heavy vehicles like JCB.
How to behave in the environmentally-sensitive areas?
Dr Khalfan bin Saeed al Shueili, Minister of Housing and Urban Planning, at the recently held Environmental Forum 2020, titled ‘The future of the environment in light of the priorities of Oman 2040 vision’ said careful attention to environment protection is paid in formulating various developmental projects as part of the Vision 2040.
“Moving Oman to the level of the aspirations of its people as envisioned by His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik is based on the protection of all environmental factors.” Accordingly, experts and environmentalists urged all to behave responsibly in the environmentally-sensitive areas. Lack of awareness and attitude towards nature are major reasons behind the human tendency towards littering and spoiling the cleanliness of beaches and other public places.
“Yet another reason behind the trash on beaches is lack of trash bins and other facilities is a major issue behind this everywhere. While heading to the beaches, one should bring a reusable bag to carry any food, drink, or beach supplies and use them as trash bags to take back the waste,” some environmentalists said.
Be considerate and pick up any nearby trash you may be passing while leaving the beach. It will help reduce litter on the beaches. Also, avoid smoking at the beaches which would help reduce cigarette buds on the shore.