Lit­ter­bugs are killing our wildlife

Cam­paign­ers hit out af­ter clearing tonnes of rub­bish from Dubai desert

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - By Sar­wat Nasir @Sar­watNasir

Desert daytrip­pers and cam­pers who toss their trash and leave their BBQ waste be­hind are killing the coun­try’s wildlife and their habi­tat – and it’s time to stop.

That’s the mes­sage from one group of 4x4 en­thu­si­asts who cleared 3.5 tonnes of rub­bish, about the weight of an av­er­age male African ele­phant, from a small area of desert in Dubai at the week­end.

About 150 peo­ple in 60 cars took part in the Hilti Desert Clean-up Drive, gath­er­ing up items left be­hind by ig­no­rant vis­i­tors, in­clud­ing ev­ery­thing from rugs to plas­tic cups, plates, cut­lery, food and BBQ waste.

Gau­rav Khanna, co-founder of the on­line mar­ket­place Car­nity.com, a group of 4x4 hob­by­ists, hit out at the care­less lit­ter­bugs and said his group often come across camels that have died be­cause of eat­ing plas­tic waste.

He said: “This isn't rocket sci­ence. They should pick up their trash be­fore leav­ing. Un­for­tu­nately we, as off-road­ers, wit­ness many camels dy­ing by eat­ing the plas­tic bags, bot­tles and cans left be­hind. It is truly sad and hor­ri­fy­ing.”

The con­voy of ve­hi­cles set off at 7am in the area around Al Awir and, with the help of Dubai Mu­nic­i­pal­ity clean­ers, picked up tonnes of plas­tic bot­tles, cans and mats.

Khanna added: “We split the to­tal num­bers in four to five con­voys and cleaned the en­tire desert be­hind the Al Awir Palace and mil­i­tary base camp.

“The in­di­vid­ual par­ties are not re­ally ed­u­cated. They leave cans, plas­tic bot­tles, mats and other trash be­hind.

“They go to the mid­dle of the desert, where there is a lit­tle bit of plan­ta­tion and leave all of their trash there. That’s where the wildlife, such as camels, come to eat and they end up eat­ing the harm­ful waste, such as the plas­tic bags and bot­tles.”

Khanna said that mem­bers of car­nity.com – a car en­thu­si­asts’ com­mu­nity – often go on off road trips and see the desert filled with garbage, left be­hind by vis­i­tors to the area.

He said cam­paign­ers are frus­trated as re­peated calls for peo­ple to take away their trash, and reg­u­lar cam­paigns, are clearly fall­ing on deaf ears.

Habiba Al Marashi, Chair­per­son of the Emi­rates En­vi­ron­men­tal Group (EEG), pre­vi­ously said many open desert ar­eas have be­come dump­ing grounds. Af­ter a pre­vi­ous clean-up, Al Marashi told 7DAYS: “We saw ev­ery­thing you could imag­ine – car­pets, sty­ro­foam plates and cups, plas­tic cut­lery, plas­tic bags, food – and even BBQ skew­ers. It’s a prob­lem. “When you leave your waste in those nat­u­ral desert ar­eas it gets cov­ered up by sand be­cause of wind. “There are an­i­mals like camels roam­ing around, who will rum­mage through the waste. This is ex­tremely dam­ag­ing to them and the en­vi­ron­ment.” The lat­est clean-up comes just over a week since Dubai Mu­nic­i­pal­ity said it is to start us­ing drones to spot lit­ter that has been dumped in the desert and on the emi­rate’s beaches. The mu­nic­i­pal­ity said the scheme is an at­tempt to re­duce the 7,500 tonnes of waste that are gen­er­ated each day. Ab­dul­ma­jeed Saifaie, Di­rec­tor of the Waste Man­age­ment De­part­ment at the mu­nic­i­pal­ity said: “It is far more ef­fi­cient with the drones rather than send mul­ti­ple ve­hi­cles and man­power into lo­ca­tions.”

TIME NOT WASTED: Teams pose with the tonnes of rub­bish col­lected in the clean-up

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