That’s right, it is clean-up time in the waters of Bahrain. Divers from the Bahrain Diving Volunteer Team (BDVT) are giving up their free time at the weekend to dive for trash and clean-up Bahrain waters. The divers are searching the seabed in coastal waters and ports for trash items whether they be plastics, metals, old fish traps and nets, cloth and fabric, you name it, the divers retrieve it.
The awareness initiative has the support of the Supreme Council for the Environment and the local waste management company, Gulf City Cleaning Company (GCCC). The trash that is retrieved is sorted, recycled and unfortunately, some of this trash will still go to the landfill.
Rationale for Coastal Cleanups
Globally, current statistics tell us that 8 million tonnes of plastics make their way into our oceans every year. This is the equivalent of a garbage truck load being dumped every minute! Another fact, over 70% of the plastic trash is non-biodegradable. Likewise, with many metals, or it is very slow breaking down. Nature is so dependent on the oceans for environmental services, as a storage sink for CO2, as a buffer zone to quell rising atmospheric temperatures, humankind cannot afford to trash the oceans as we are currently doing. This initiative is also inline with the UN sustainability goals, especially #14 protecting marine life.
The initiative has begun around the coastal port areas where the fishermen are so dependent on the environment for their livelihood. The key target is to raise awareness across the community. Each weekend, the volunteers tackle another port area. After these areas have had a clean-up, volunteers will move offshore to the surrounding islands as well as the local community beaches. Then on September 21, this action will coincide with World Cleanup Day.
Importance of Coastal Clean-ups
Coastal clean-up is not just an attempt to clean up the unsightly coastal waters and beach front. More importantly, the aim is to protect the marine life, the underwater habitat of so many species, to protect the fisheries that sustain the sea people, and to prevent further harm to quality of the marine water resources.
Why readers might ask is it so important to keep coastal waters clean and free of human trash? It is simply a stepwise process of keeping our beaches clean in the hope that we are better able to keep our oceans clean. If we keep the marine environments clean from trash, we will then protect the marine life on which we are also so dependent. If the beaches are kept clean, then tidal waters coming in and receding each day, will also be clean, and our trash will not be taken out into the bigger, wider ocean areas of the globe.
September 21 – The Coastal Cleanup Day
International Coastal Cleanup is not a new initiative around the globe. It began 30 years ago and now there is a day dedicated to the activity to raise awareness and to encourage the greater community to get involved and take responsibility for ensuring cleaner coastal zones. The 21st September has been declared the day for alerting the general public for the need to clean the shorelines and coastal waters, and even document the amount and type of litter collected from these areas. As with so many environmental issues and concerns, education is at the base of all corrective action.
There are some serious reasons why we need to take care of our oceans and coastal waterways. The bottom line is that the air we breathe: the ocean produces over half of the world’s oxygen. The second key fact is that oceans absorbs 50 times more carbon dioxide than our atmosphere. If we impair the capability of our oceans to produce oxygen and trap CO2, not only will marine species suffer, but the future of humankind will also be jeopardized. And the third key fact is that oceans regulate the global weather patterns and seasonal climate. Over 70% of the globe is covered in ocean water that provides essential environmental services for life as we know.
Therefore, we each need to act responsibly to protect our future.
Dr Claire Cosgrove, Ph.D., is a Professor of Environmental Management and Environmental Science in the College of Engineering at AMA International University, Salmabad, Kingdom of Bahrain. Dr Cosgrove has lived and worked in a number of countries such as South Africa, USA, New Zealand and now in the Middle East. Her research work has covered air pollution, weather modification /cloud seeding, rainfall modelling and simulation and flood forecasting, to name a few areas of interest.