x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Thousands give up their time for Operation Clean-up

A clean-up campaign, now in its tenth year, drew 27,000 people across the Emirates to remove rubbish from the environment.

Volunteers help clear away rubbish at a campsite in Nad Al Sheba.
Volunteers help clear away rubbish at a campsite in Nad Al Sheba.

DUBAI // Thousands of volunteers yesterday cleaned up a startling array of rubbish that included construction materials, plastic bags, fishing nets and even sheets of asbestos.

The operation at Nad Al Sheba, a popular campsite just outside Dubai, was part of a campaign in which 27,000 people gave their time to clean up 92 tonnes of rubbish at 109 sites across the country.

About 4,700 volunteers, including university students, schoolchildren and businessmen and women, spent the morning picking up litter at the campsite.

"We have had a fantastic response from the public and it just goes to show the strong sense of community spirit in this country," said Habiba Al Marashi, who chairs the Emirates Environmental Group, which organised the clean-up.

"This is a wonderful area of natural beauty with lots of wildlife, and it's why people come here to camp," she said.

"But unfortunately, they then don't bother to clean up after themselves and leave all kinds of rubbish."

Volunteers in caps and T-shirts and equipped with biodegradable bags and reusable cotton gloves scoured the area, picking up waste.

"It's unbelievable some of the things we have found here," Ms Al Marashi said.

“People have just dumped asbestos sheeting under some bushes. If you walk around, you will see bits of metal piping sticking out of the ground with concrete attached to them.

“We have specially trained people on hand to take away anything that might be dangerous so everyone is safe. The sad thing is that some people have no respect for the environment, but it should be everyone’s duty to look after it.”

She said that despite the amount of waste the group found, only a minority of people had caused the problem.

“We need to educate these people that it’s not right to do this, and by encouraging children at a young age to take care of the environment, the message will get across,” she said.

Abdullah Al Khallafi, an 18-year-old Emirati student at the University of Dubai, felt it was his duty to take part in the clean-up.

“I wanted to do this because it is for the country. Some people come out here and are enjoying their time, but then they leave their rubbish in nature,” he said. “This is disrespectful and is harmful for nature.”

Mr Al Khallafi and his friends found some strange items in the desert. “It was very weird because we found fishing nets, carpets and ropes just left here in the middle of nowhere,” said Mariyam Sharif, 23, a Pakistani student at the university. “I think these things must have been left here for some time because we had to get through a lot of sand to unearth this stuff.”

She enjoyed the clean-up operation, and will encourage friends and family to take part next time.

“It’s the first time I have been involved in anything like this and to see so many other people of all ages and backgrounds take part was good,” she said.

Rashed Abdullah, 20, another Emirati student, said it was an important gesture to give something back to his country.

“I was surprised by the amount of rubbish we found,” he said. “You would never expect it in a place like this and it just goes to show why we must all be responsible when we come out to places like this.”

The EEG Clean Up campaign began in 2002 in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Ajman, and has since spread to every emirate.

Clean-ups also took place yesterday opposite Al Manhal School at Al Bateen in Abu Dhabi, Al Masoodi in Al Ain, Al Warqa near Mirdif in Dubai, Maliha Road in Sharjah, the Ajman Corniche and Falaj Al Mualla in Umm Al Qaiwain, after events last week in Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah.

nhanif@thenational.ae