May 09, 2011 02:58 AM (Last updated: May 09, 2011 01:31 PM)
By Mohammed Zaatari, Antoine Amrieh
The Daily Star
SIDON / TRIPOLI: Even beach clean-up efforts have sought to capitalize on unrest sweeping the Arab world, with Big Blue Association environmental activists claiming that “the people want a clean beach in Lebanon, echoing calls elsewhere of “the people want to topple the regime.”

”The association launched the campaign Sunday for the 15th consecutive year from a location facing the Raouche rocks in Beirut, as similar efforts took place up and down the country’s shoreline.

On hand were Nada Sardouk, the director general of the Tourism Ministry, on behalf of caretaker Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud and representatives of caretaker Culture Minister Salim Warde, caretaker Environment Minister Mohammad Rahhal and caretaker Health Minister Mohammad Jawad Khalife. Beirut MP Mohammad Qabbani along with representatives of the Lebanese Army Commander and the Internal Security Forces also participated in the event.

Garbage was removed from beaches stretching from the southern coastal town of Naqoura to Arida in the north.

Also, divers from the Lebanese Army, Civil Defense and diving clubs cleared the seabed in several areas. The divers erected banners designed by the Big Blue Association in the seabed which urged divers to preserve sea life.

The Big Blue Association said its members, accompanied by school and university students, visited President Michel Sleiman at Baabda Palace and awarded him the honorary title of the guardian of the sea environment.

During the visit, activists also presented Sleiman with a number of demands to improve the country’s maritime environment. They ranged from boosting methods to punish people who harm the sea environment, removing solid-waste dumps from the coast, starting with the one in Sidon, constructing solid-waste treatment centers in line with international standards, retrieving public seafront properties and preventing violations on them, banning landfill operations at sea, raising awareness in schools, and carrying out sustainable environmental awareness programs.

Sleiman promised to study the demands and highlighted the necessity of allocating a bigger budget by the state for environmental protection.

In Sidon, hundreds of activists from environmental and scout associations along with municipality personnel and other volunteers participated in clearing up the beach of Rmeileh, at the northern entrance to Sidon, while others handled other stretches of the city’s beach. Disabled individuals took part in the campaign as well.

Mahmoud Mheidly, who is blind, ran his hand over plastic and nylon bags before putting them in a bag that he was carrying. “I came with my colleagues to help in clearing the beach of garbage, and I was responsible for collecting empty bottles,” he told The Daily Star. “Cleaning the beach is a good act.”

Mheidly was one of a number of blind, mute and deaf individuals from the Al-Hadi Institute for deaf and blind children who took part in the efforts.

Mahmoud Amin, Mheidly’s colleague who is also sight-impaired, said he was able to work like any other person, as he gathered garbage.

Amin said the association he and Mheidly came from worked on empowering them “so that we will be like other people in our society.”

Also in the south, a local youth association participated in cleaning the beach of the southern town of Sarafand.

In Tripoli, the city’s municipality along with other northern civil society associations, students and scouts cleared up the beach stretching from Al-Bahsas to the Abu Ali River.

Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati’s al-Azm wal-Saada association took part in the campaign as well. Among the volunteers were Tripoli’s Mayor Nader Ghazal and members of his family along with Mohammad Tamer, the coordinator of the campaign in the north.

Ghazal called upon all young people to participate in such campaigns, which pave the way for a “clean future, especially since we are on the eve of the summer season.”

The Tripoli mayor also said that clean-up campaigns should target areas throughout Lebanon and not only beaches.

While stressing the importance of the campaign, Ghazal said that “our work today is insufficient if there is no awareness of the necessity of the permanent preservation of the cleanliness of beaches.”

Similar activities took place along Akkar’s coast.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 09, 2011, on page 3.
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::