Yiti resident Munther al Jabri is familiar with all the nooks and crannies of his village and the nearby mountains and beach areas.
His family is one of the first dozens who had been dependent on the sea for livelihood and he spent almost half his life navigating the surrounding waters diving for seafood and enjoying the underwater spectacle that to this day is still teeming with life.
His recent trip to Jabal Sifah, a 20-minute drive from his home, however, disappointed him. While the layout of the land remained the same, he was annoyed by how much trash there was littering the beach area and even the bluish-green waters.
“Jabal Sifah most recently has grown in popularity. This is no surprise as this place is perfect for snorkelling, camping and even diving. With every visit, however, the trash piles up,” Munther shared.
“I visited a few weeks back and realise just how massive the problem has become. Even at first glance, you know that the plastic bags are there, some hidden in the sand. The neglect of humans and their wanton disregard for properly disposing of their garbage was saddening,” he added.
“This area, my friends and I spend hours playing football on the beach. We used to enjoy coming here because the beach area is pristine. You look at it now and the former beauty of the place is gone. At this rate, when this beach is filled with garbage, even the people will stop coming,” he said.
Instead of showing defeat, Munther reached out to his two good friends Fahad al Abri and Esam al Zadjali.
“I told my friends why this place was important to me. Of how disappointed I am that it has become a dumping site and how afraid I was that it will eventually become like other places where garbages forced people out. It’s when we created the initiative,” he said.
Fahad and Esam helped Munther spread the word about the cleanup drive they scheduled on August 2, a Friday.
“We partnered with our other friends. We know several people who organise local trips and we tapped into their networks. We made social media campaigns and under the Move Green initiative, a movement and an Instagram social media account that aims to organise cleanup activities all over the Sultanate, we finalised the plan,” he said.
Around 40 people turn up for the cleanup drive. Armed with cleaning tools and recyclable garbage bags, they traverse the long coast of Jabal Sifah picking plastic and garbages along the way. The collected almost three dozens of trash.
“Throwing these pieces of trash into the ocean and the beach, this is a heinous act against the environment. If we don’t make small efforts like this, we will end up with beaches that you can’t swim in. To make the Sifah of today like the Sifah of the past, we have to make a conscious effort of maintaining its cleanliness,” Munther said.
Cleaning the environment is fun
While the primary goal was to clean up the environment, Munther, Fahad and Esam also wanted to remind the volunteers that they were also there to have fun.
Other than orienting the members about their goal and the day’s programme, Fahad also shared with the group a jingle he created to serve as an anthem for the event. The jingle was well received and reflected the group’s concern for the environment.
Once they completed the cleanup drive, the volunteers were encouraged to enjoy the beach and the water — emphasising why what they were doing was important.
For Moroccan student Hala who volunteered with her two friends, it was a volunteer activity she would lovingly do so any day.
“I woke up on a Friday morning asking myself what I can do to help the world. Being a volunteer and being guided to do a cleanup drive in Sifah, I couldn’t have spent my day on a more productive endeavour,” she shared.
For Munther, what he wanted is very simple. He wanted to preserve the cleanliness and beauty of Sifah and nearby beaches so other kids, just like him, will also enjoy playing on the sand and enjoy its pristine waters.
Munther shared that they have several clean up drives planned thanks to the success of their first initiative. For anyone interested to volunteer and join, you can follow their Instagram @hola_oman and @move_green for activity announcements.