x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Thousands join drive to clean up the Dubai desert

Areas of desert, including Al Khawaneej, Al Aweer and Al Waqa will be cleared of trash over two weeks.

Pupils from the Al Awir Government School for Girls pose for the media infront of a sign advertising the newly launched Clean Up campaign
Pupils from the Al Awir Government School for Girls pose for the media infront of a sign advertising the newly launched Clean Up campaign

DUBAI // Thousands of volunteers are expected to roll up their sleeves and take part in a mass clean-up of the emirate's desert.

Launched yesterday by Dubai Municipality, the annual Desert Clean Up Drive, running until March 9, aims to clear rubbish from large stretches of Al Khawaneej, Al Aweer, Al Warqa, Wadi Al Amardi and Hatta on the outskirts of the city.

Most of the waste in the desert is left by people on camping trips and is mainly old food packaging, and wood and charcoal from campfires, said Abdul Majeed Saifaie, director of the municipality's waste-management department.

"The target is to create awareness among people," said Mr Saifaie. "We want to show them the proper way to camp and gather their waste."

Construction and demolition debris is sometimes illegally dumped in the sand dunes, said Hamda Al Murr, head of the awareness department at the municipality.

The civic body has special clean-up teams waiting to assist volunteers with this kind of waste. After it is collected and weighed it is disposed of properly, Ms Al Murr said.

Last year about 10,000 tonnes of rubbish were removed from the desert with the help of volunteers from six private companies.

This year about 20 companies are participating, including the aluminium producer Dubal and the Al Rostamani Group, as well as pupils from several schools, Ms Al Murr said.

"We are expecting 12,000 people to join this year," she said.

The effort will be coordinated from a venue behind Mushrif Park.

At yesterday's launch, guests were greeted with an exhibition of pictures from previous years' events, and a collection of desert plants.

Other attractions included a birds of prey exhibit and a play area with a carousel and a bouncy castle for younger volunteers.

The venue will be open from 5pm to 10pm each day until the clean-up ends next month.

The municipality regularly organises clean-ups of the emirate's beaches, beauty spots and inner-city areas such as Al Karama and Al Naif, said Ms Al Murr.

Last weekend, more than 300 people gave up their Saturday afternoon to clean a protected marine reserve on Dubai's border with Abu Dhabi.

About 1.5 tonnes of litter that had washed up on the beach was collected, while nearby lagoons were cleared of polluted algae by 30 pupils from Al Salam Girls High School, a public school, who donned plastic gloves and filled large rubbish bags.

Staff from Volkswagen, Siemens and Rotana Hotels also lent a hand.

Last November, more than 37,000 volunteers helped to collect about 400 tonnes of rubbish in the annual four-day Clean up the World campaign in Hatta, Al Satwa, Umm Suqeim, Jebel Ali, Al Qusais and Al Mizhar.

While litter and other rubbish is unsightly, many items also pose a risk to the environment and public health.

Environmentalists in the UAE have been most concerned about plastic debris that can kill camels, goats, cattle and other wildlife.

vtodorova@thenational.ae