More than one metric ton of rubbish removed at mangrove cleanup

Approximately sixty volunteers gathered in the area in front of the Eastern Mangrove Lagoon National Park on Friday Sept. 13 to partake in the second ...

Sep 14, 2013

Approximately sixty volunteers gathered in the area in front of the Eastern Mangrove Lagoon National Park on Friday Sept. 13 to partake in the second Landmark Mangrove Project of the year.
Landmark Mangrove Project is an environmental initiative organized by Green Abu Dhabi that seeks to both preserve the delicate ecosystem of the mangroves and to educate people about environmental issues such as littering. On the third Friday of every month, except for during the summer months, volunteers form teams of ten to compete against one in a race to collect the most rubbish. At the end of the afternoon, the boxes of rubbish are weighed and prizes handed out to the winning teams.
Three teams of NYU Abu Dhabi students participated in this month’s cleanup, alongside teams from Crescent Enterprises, a company based in Sharjah. The three NYUAD teams won first, second and third place for the most rubbish collected. Although NYUAD students have volunteered in similar cleanup projects in the past, this is the first time the university has been involved with the Landmark Mangrove Project.
Suhail Jashanmal, the founder and organizer of the project, said that the idea came to him nearly three years ago when he was walking in the mangrove area and spotted a fire.
“It was big enough for me to worry so I put it out,” Jashanmal said. “But the odd part was that while I was putting it out, there were about four people watching me put it out. And nobody else even bothered to move. “
Even fishermen and passersby who had arrived before Jashanmal did nothing to stop the fire, and instead watched it grow. His initial response to such inaction was anger. As a result, Jashanmal embarked on a mission to raise awareness of environmental issues and to encourage participation in solving them. He explained that the project seeks to do more than just pick up garbage once a month; he wants to change people’s attitude.
“Our problem is action,” Jashanmal said. “Don’t sit at home and say, Oh, I could have, or, I didn’t, or, I should have. A lot of people do that. The armchair environmentalist … that’s the majority of people, even with good intentions.”
Jashanmal wants people in Abu Dhabi to be more involved and proactive about taking action.
“The idea is to get people to do it. Even if they pick up a little bit of trash … They can’t just talk about it, they have to do it,” he said.
NYUAD freshmen Kai-Erik Jensen, who participated in the cleanup, cited his desire for active involvement as one of the reasons that he signed up to help.
“I wanted to become a bigger part of the Abu Dhabi community and one way to do that is to help out, rather than just being an observer,” he said. “I recommend it for anybody who is even mildly interested in not just environmentalism but in being involved.”
Bridging the gap between observing and participating is the secondary objective of the Landmark Mangrove Project, explained Jashanmal.
“See that woman over there in yellow?” Jashanmal said, pointing to a woman watching from near the bank of the water. “She’s not part of our team, she’s the public … The point is doing this in front of everyone and in the view of the public.”
Jashanmal hopes that seeing volunteers picking up rubbish will encourage observers to think twice about littering.
“There is only one place [the rubbish] can come from — the general public. There is no other place it can come from … it is people littering,” Jashanmal said.
Over the course of the afternoon, volunteers collected a total of 1,112 kilograms of discarded objects, ranging from wrappers, plastic bottles and papers to several pairs of shoes, a rake and a massive tire.
“I think that trash is definitely a problem [here],” said NYUAD sophomore Mika Koulibaly. She said that a lack of information could be a possible cause. For that reason, she enjoyed volunteering for the mangrove cleanup.
“You’re helping spread awareness … so it’s worth it,” Koulibaly said.
Jashanmal also believed that improvement is being made, both in terms of education and the cleanliness of the area.
“It’s definitely getting better since the last time. I was a little worried when we got here that there wasn’t any trash [for the volunteers to clean up],” Jashanmal said. “But there always is.”
The Landmark Mangrove Project will take place again in the Eastern Mangrove Lagoon National Park next month. Information about forming teams and signing up for the next clean-up will be announced on the Student Portal.
Clare Hennig is features editor. Email her at 
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