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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 20 July 2018

Education is the answer to drastic plastic problem lurking beneath the sea, says diver

'Extraordinary' rise in levels of plastic bottles and bags being found

Diver and Instructor Nicola Liddell of Divers Down in Ghantoot who does cleanups, collecting of marine debris from underwater. Antonie Robertson / The National
Diver and Instructor Nicola Liddell of Divers Down in Ghantoot who does cleanups, collecting of marine debris from underwater. Antonie Robertson / The National

Pollution caused by plastic is the single biggest problem facing the UAE’s environment.

The claim was made by Nicola Liddell, Padi course director with Divers Down UAE, who said that the amount of plastics being found on local shores is causing mayhem for the local environment.

Ms Liddell, who regularly organises clean-ups of beaches and shorelines, said that the plastic being found at sea, the majority of which are bottles and bags, causes untold damage.

“People are in the habit of taking the fast and easy option of just throwing out plastic bottles and bags and do not realise the damage it is causing,” she said. “We are noticing an extraordinary increase in the levels of plastic bags and bottles.”

Simon Meade, head of operations at desert safari company Arabian Adventures, agreed that plastic was a problem.

“We are working to limit waste and recycling at all our desert camps along with a new project to reduce the purchase of single-use plastic, which has led to a reduction of 59 per cent in the past 12 months,” Mr Meade said.

It is not just plastic bottles and bags that are ending up under the water fishing lines, hooks and disposable cutlery are also creating a nuisance.

“It is a question of education,” Ms Liddell said. “We speak to children regularly and many of them are not even aware there is a problem. That seems incredible and is worrying, given there is a global push to educate people about the damage plastic is doing.”

In recent years, there has been a drive from the sustainable tourism sector and the Middle East is starting to see the dividends of that now, Mr Meade said.

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Read more:

UAE to shine a light on 'natural wonders' through ecotourism drive

UAE makes strides in fight against climate change

Dubai ruler launches desert conservation reserve

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“Sustainability and ecotourism continue to be sought after by our customers because it is valued and adhered to at Arabian Adventures,” he said. “Most of our safaris take place in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, which is the biggest piece of land Dubai has dedicated to a single conservation project and led the way in boosting the population of the Arabian oryx.”

Sustainable tourism is so in demand that it is a major part of the package offered by companies such as Arabian Adventures, whose

Nature Safari gives

guests a chance to see “Arabian oryx, sand gazelle and a variety of bird and reptile species”, Mr Meade said.

Patrick Ryan