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Take it back – International costal cleanup

Cox’s Bazar is a 125 km long sandy sea beach located 150 km south of Chittagong, the port city of Bangladesh. It is named after Captain Hiram Cox, an officer of the British East India Company, who was sent here in the late 1790s to settle Buddhist immigrants from nearby Burma. The Cox’s Bazar is now a beach town, a port, health resort and a popular destination for Bangladeshi and international tourists. During holidays, the beaches of Cox’s Bazar are filled with a lot of tourists who generate lots of trash and debris; many of them are not biologically degradable. This debris, if not removed, can be harmful and even fatal to all kinds of marine wildlife and can also become a human health hazard. A dirty beach equals to less tourists and less contribution to economy. So measures need to be taken before it is too late.

I met Muntasir Mamun online while I was writing a blog on his Trashmaniac 5000km bike ride a few months ago. I was really impressed by his dedication and activism and he continued to surprise me. He proposed me that I should go to Cox’s Bazar on 15th of September to volunteer for the coastal cleanup activity. I told him that I was interested but I needed to be back in Dhaka on the 16th morning. He assured me that he will arrange it and little I knew what adventure waited for me.

Before a couple of days of the event I received a flight itinerary of Arirang Aviation. I was expecting a regular commercial flight when I reached the domestic terminal of Hazrat Shahjalal Airport in Dhaka. To my surprise I realized that we would be boarding a small 9 seater Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft which mostly does chartered flights. The Green Team of the US Embassy and some other guests were on board with me.

It was a sunny day and we were mesmerized with a nice aerial view of the lands and waterways beneath us as the flight was flying lower than the commercial airlines. I saw another beauty of my motherland and captured some of the moments on my camera. I wondered if camera could capture all the beauty that was unleashed.

The flight was about one hour and fifteen minutes in total and was very smooth, thanks to the experienced and nice pilots. There were two jeeps of UNHCR, one of the partners of the event, waiting outside. After a while we arrived at the Hotel Shaibal of the Parjatan Corporation where a rally of school kids and volunteers were waiting. Soon we were clad with attractive T-Shirt and cap with the message of the Coastal Cleanup Day.

International Coastal Cleanup Day is celebrated annually throughout the world in over 90 countries with a variety of initiatives. It is a day where volunteers visit beaches and waterways to collect trash and polluting elements to make a bold statement. Since 1986, millions around the globe have joined Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup, one of the world’s largest voluntary efforts to cleanup marine environment.

Banglalink has supported the program for 6th consecutive years. The event included a rally, an inauguration at the Cox’s Bazaar sea beach, beach cleaning and awareness generation among tourists. This is also part of the organization’s yearlong Cox’s Bazar sea beach cleaning project. The local administration also provided support.

Being part of the rally was fun and I mingled with the school kids and was charged up by their enthusiasm. There were students from local schools – Koltoli Adarsha School, Coxsbazar and also volunteers from Life and Surfing Club, Cox’s Bazar. I talked to some of them and saw that they were enthusiastic for the job they were going to do. It is a great thing to raise awareness still early in their life. They will grow up and be more environment conscious.

I saw much spirit among more than hundred volunteers from Dhaka who are mostly students of different private and public universities and paid for their expenses. Independent University Bangladesh’s Environment Club; University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh; North South University Bangladesh; Dhanmondi Govt Boys High School Ex Scouts Association are the primary source of the volunteers. The organizers used Facebook to organize these volunteers’ participation. It was a notable field event for them. They were earnest and had fun as well.

The rally led by ADC of the local administration arrived at the beach and everyone gathered around. Guests including Jack Knettles, Chair from Green Team, US Embassy, UNHCR representative .[…] ADC and [..] spoke on the occasion and inaugurated the event.

The volunteers were given transparent bags to collect debris. The debris included thousands of cigarette butts, plastic bags etc. Almost 90% of floating marine debris is plastic and only a small portion of them are recycled. So they pose a threat. There are already trash cans available at the beach with Banglalink logo, presumably sponsored by the organization. But surprisingly the cans looked cleaner than the nearby places in the beach denoting the behavior of the visitors in littering. I hope one day the kids who volunteered for the campaign will tell others to stop littering and save our beaches.

There was another event by the same team on the previous day in Inani beach, which has gained popularity in recent years as a quieter and cleaner beach. But popularity has its peril. The beach is also swarmed now with thousands of tourists. One organizer was telling about the energy and enthusiasm of the young volunteers who after completing 4-5 hours cleanup operations in Inani beach were playing inside the hotel. You can’t stop these powerful youths from changing the nation.

When I was coming back I was thinking why initiatives like this are absolutely necessary for Cox’s Bazar. Soon this beach town will be busier than ever with an international focus. Many international hotel chains are planning to build hotels here, such as a Mövenpick Hotel will be completed within 2013, a Best Western hotel will open in 2014 and a Radisson hotel is due in 2015. In Bangladesh income from tourism is about 4% of GDP. If we want to lift it up to 10% like India, tourism will be Bangladesh’s major source of income. We need to have proper infrastructure and a clean and healthy beach for that. Prevention is better than cure. So if we can motivate people not to litter the beach in the first place, it can be maintained.

Kudos to Kewkradong for arranging such an important awareness campaign. Muntasir was telling how an initiative of a bunch of friends has gone this big year by year. He is grateful to the sponsors who helped with all these logistics and the volunteers who participated with their heart and mind. In our country there are many people, including politicians who talk a lot for credit and do nothing. And there are some who actually do try to bring a change in the society. The Kewkradong team falls in the latter group and I hope their initiatives will be known to more people, especially the youth, who will be inspired to take similar awareness campaigns in their society.

Writer Rezwan. This article was first published in the 9th TRINO Magazine . The magazine is published by the Krewkradong Bangladesh. Kewkradong is an activity place for youth. Adventure is the key here. This is totally non-political, non-violence; non-profitable organization originated in Bangladesh.

This article is uploaded by Majbritt Magnussen, administrator on ‘Views On Tourism’. Please join the online Views On Tourism network and discussion group in order to achieve personal goals as well as encourage a sustainable tourism development in Bangladesh and South Asia. Read more about this group and how to become a member here.

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Posted in Bangladesh, Best practice, Cooperation and network, Development, Education and qualification, Events, Sustainability.

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