By Susan Lawrence Helke

AMMAN – The Aqaba Marine Park (AMP) and the Royal Marine Conservation Society of Jordan (JREDS) carried out numerous activities in Aqaba over the past week as part of the global “Clean up the World” campaign.

Observed every year in Aqaba, the activities help clean up the environment while also serving as a medium to educate schoolchildren and the public on the importance of removing trash to preserve the marine ecosystem.

With Aqaba slated to be the 2011 Arab Capital of Tourism, this year’s campaign focused on cleaning the city and its beaches to prepare Aqaba to welcome visitors, according to JREDS Executive Director Fadi Sharaiha.

On September 25, the Aqaba Marine Park began the week with a campaign led by AMP Manager Abdullah Abu Awalah, during which more than 50 divers, marine park staff and school students cleaned up plastic water bottles, plates, cups and beverage cans from the sea bed and the beach.

Earlier this year, Sharaiha indicated that the theme for this year’s JREDS campaign would be “Communities coming together to protect nature”.

“Human activities threaten the health of the seas,” he said, pointing out that 80 per cent of marine pollution comes from land-based activities.

“One million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals die each year from 45,000 tonnes of plastic rubbish. With this, the biodiversity of the Red Sea is at risk,” he added.

JREDS began its activities last Thursday with a “Cycle for Green” campaign through the streets of Aqaba to promote green activities. Three hundred people participated in the event with bicycles rented out to the public to increase awareness on climate change and how green activities can help decrease it

“The amazing thing that came out of the Cycle for Green campaign is that now ASEZA [the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority] is looking into creating bike paths throughout Aqaba because the area is flat and is conducive to biking and walking paths,” Sharaiha told The Jordan Times on Sunday.

On Friday, a team of 70 divers, including local dive centre operators, carried out clean up and coral transplanting to replace damaged areas of coral with new patches to ensure the existing coral reef areas remain viable.

Friday’s activities ended with a beach party, including music by a local DJ, and environmental awareness programmes and games for people of all ages.

On Saturday, over 1,000 people were involved in a beach clean up including schoolchildren, NGOs and local organisations for people with disabilities. Trash was then sorted and, when possible, sent for recycling.

ASEZA Environmental Commissioner Salim Moghrabi attended the concluding ceremony Saturday night, where corporate sponsors, dive centres and contest winners were presented with awards and certificates of appreciation.