Doha Environmental Actions Project (DEAP), a Qatar volunteer community with the common goal of ensuring the cleanliness of the local environment, has just launched an anti-littering media campaign in collaboration with photographer Nabil Darwish. DEAP aims to raise public awareness of the environmental damage caused by littering and also of the new law number 18, 2017 on public hygiene, which prohibits littering in public spaces with stringent penalties for offenders.
We meet Jeanne Bédard, founder of DEAP, to learn how you can be more actively involved in protecting the environment (and avoid hefty fines, too).
What prompted this initiative?
When I moved to Doha, I spent a lot of time snorkelling and swimming in the sea. As a dietitian, I am aware of pollution’s impact on our food system. Doha Environmental Actions Project came from the desire to take more action than just posting on the internet. It’s heart-breaking to see trash left on the beach or coming in with the tide from nearby or far away places. As depressing as some environmental facts are, there is a way to make community actions fun. I felt I knew enough to take action and created a Facebook group early last year. Seven months later, the group has more than 1,500 members.
That’s a lot of members… Is there really that much rubbish?
We’ve completed more than 35 weekly clean-up activities, collected around 3,600 grocery bags of trash and visited more than 20 different beaches in Qatar.
How do you make this appealing so people actually want to take part?
To have fun, exercise and meet new people are big parts of our clean-up. So our weekend event includes cleaning the beach, sharing food, playing volleyball, swimming, 4x4 bike rides, dune discovery, free yoga sessions by volunteers, drumming sessions with Drumming Qatar and the Ugandan community and more.
How can people get involved and come along to the collections?
I set dates, places and meeting points to carpool on our Facebook page. We get together, people who have cars drive people who do not. We bring our regular beach equipment such as water, comfortable shoes and hats, and add garden or work gloves and old grocery bags. We then head to the beach, clean up, eat, swim, play sports and dance, and we always laugh. We dispose of the trash responsibly and use bins that are already on beaches. If needed, we have the support of the Ministry of Municipality Environment for trash removal.
What’s the biggest challenge in all of this?
Trash is the symptom of a bigger problem – littering and pollution. It’s challenging for me to see people leave their rubbish in public places. It’s hard to stay motivated when we go back to a beach and it’s dirty again. Our hope is not to pick up after people but to enjoy Qatar’s natural, trash-free, beauty.
How can we improve our current rubbish disposal practises?
There is a huge misconception that there is someone to pick up after you when leaving rubbish in parks, streets or beaches. Individual responsibility is not an option for me and there is power in everyday decisions like putting out cigarette butts, throwing sweet wrappers, bottles, tea bags etc. in the bin instead of on the ground. Bins are in most places and if not available, take your litter away with you. Use bins, produce less waste, pack your lunch with as little excess packaging as possible, recycle all you can, reuse shopping bags and boxes and contribute to cleaning-up.
Search More than Sand & Sea on YouTube to see DEAP’s anti-littering video. Follow their Facebook page for monthly clean-up events, www.facebook.com/deapqatar.