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Trash Trail.

Earlier, people would go to the beach and leave with nothing more than a handful of memories, a picnic hamper full of rubbish and a few photographs of the beautiful landscape.

However, in recent times, the amount of rubbish - ranging from water bottles to plastic bags to cigarette butts, found strewn across the various tourist locations in Oman - seems to be on rise.

Beaches and other tourist destinations continue to be littered even as officials and action groups continue to fight the problem that faces them in the cooler months each year. The sight of dumped rubbish is turning off residents and tourists alike. Broken glass on the ground, a common sight these days, puts people at risk of injury.

Soud al Riyami said that convincing his friends to go camping is a tough job. AoI have friends who refuse to go camping because itAAEs dirty. ItAAEs such a shame because this is what the reality is. You want to have a picnic without worrying that you will step on a piece of glass or metal,Ao he said.

Sujit Varma, an expatriate, recalled an experience that his group had when they went camping at Fins beach. AoWe had reached the beach after dark and before we could set things up, we noticed a lot of plastic bottles and cans lying around.

We got into action immediately and cleaned up the area. Had we not noticed, we would have probably woken up with othersAAE leftover all around us. AoItAAEs a problem even in Muscat, such as around the Bausher sand dunes. It is something that affects tourists as well as locals,Ao Sujit added.

Different people have their own thoughts on why people dump their rubbish instead of clearing it up. Madiha al Sibani, a fashion design graduate, thinks that some are just careless.

AoThey donAAEt mind throwing rubbish outdoors, so why canAAEt they just take their share to their cars or throw it in a nearby dustbin. I think there should be more bins on the beaches as well. They should provide more facilities like washrooms and rubbish bins in public places,Ao she said.

The three tourists from Holland, who were camping at Qurm beach when TheWeek spoke to them, had already developed a negative impression about the country when it came to cleanliness. The trio - Ppijin, Wouter and Michier - who had visited places like Wadi Tiwi, were not happy with what they had seen.

AoAt Nizwa, Sur and Wadi Tiwi, we found a lot of litter around. We have seen people throw away piles of garbage in open spaces and just leave. This is not what we had expected here,Ao said Ppijin.

Scenes such as these might be a surprise to tourists but for Saud al Husaini, these things are not uncommon. Saud claims that he noticed an increase in littering especially after the recent holidays but that the municipality in Muscat had been active in cleaning up immediately. He added that perhaps the outdoor locations outside of Muscat had not fared so well.

Sujit feels tourists are not the ones who should be blamed for creating this mess and that officials should help out by raising more awareness among residents.

A few weeks ago, Muscat Municipality released a campaign in local Arabic newspapers called AaeMuscat in HeartAAE. An official explained that the focus of the campaign was to ask people not to disturb the eco-balance by leaving rubbish behind after having a picnic.

On the initiatives taken by the municipality, Abdul Hamid, deputy director of Health Affairs at Muscat Municipality, said, AoWe are making our best efforts to keep these tourist spots clean. In fact, we recruit more people during the tourist season to clear up and they work from early morning to midnight in some of the places.Ao

He also said that his office has recently got a new machine for Muscat city that speeds up the cleaning process by separating plastic from sand much faster than what they previously used. Sharing the same sentiment as Madiha, who feels it is the dual responsibility of the government as well as the general public to take care of the environment, Abdul said residents should cooperate in keeping Oman clean. On those who do violate the rules and dump rubbish, the municipality levies a fine which can be as high as RO200.

AoIt is not possible to go to each and every location time and again in search of violators but if we catch somebody, we fine them. Most picnickers leave camping sites by early morning and that is why it is so difficult to catch violators,Ao said Abdul. Besides being an eyesore for tourists and residents, these plastic items also pose a threat to the marine life found in the sultanateAAEs waters and animals on the land.

Many of these items end up in the water following high tide or after being purposely dumped there and studies have shown that they can release toxic chemicals that are eaten by marine animals. This can create a potential path for toxins to travel up the food chain to humans. Animals living on the land can also try to eat this rubbish and be injured.

Officials have recently installed three bins in Shatti al Qurm to encourage visitors to recycle by separating plastics, paper and glass items before disposing them in the relevant bin.

Abdul said, AoThere are signs on each bin indicating what it is meant for. The test is being conducted to ease the process of segregating things and also reduce the risk of stuffing which can lead to overspill. ItAAEs been just two months so we cannot say if it is successful or not but citizens also need to be a little careful when throwing rubbish.Ao

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Publication:The Week (Muscat, Oman)
Geographic Code:7OMAN
Date:Mar 9, 2011
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