SPENDING Friday collecting other people’s rubbish may not be everyone’s idea of an enjoyable day out, but for some 50 members of the Qatar Natural History Group, yesterday’s beach clean was a great success.
They were visiting Jazirat bin Ghanim, also known as Al Khor Island, in the bay of Al Khor. This tiny, fish-shaped island is tethered to the mainland by a causeway, and surrounded by mangrove forests.
The island is protected from development, as it is home to a number of unique archaeological sites, including a Bronze Age settlement dating back 4,500 years and a site where purple dye was produced from a kind of shellfish some 3,400 years ago.
Besides the archaeology, the presence of many birds among the mangrove trees which grow in the shallow water surrounding the island, and the wide range of flora on the island make it an attractive and interesting place to visit.
Beautiful though this island is, its seaward shores are heavily polluted by mounds of rotting refuse washed in by the tide, in addition to debris left by fishermen and picnickers.
Apart from its ugliness, many of the items found among the trash are a real danger both to people and wildlife. Smashed glass bottles litter the sand, plus discarded fishing nets, lines and hooks which can ensnare sea birds and turtles. Plastic bags are a menace, as in the water they are sometimes mistaken by turtles for jellyfish and eaten, with fatal results.
After touring the island’s archaeological sites, admiring the flocks of flamingoes feeding in the shallows and examining a number of colourful flowering plants, identified by Weill Cornell University botanist Renee Richter, everyone set to and scoured the coastline, collecting everything from rolls of wire to a parachute flare, presumably the former property of the armed forces. The full sacks had to be lugged back along the causeway, which is breached in two places to allow tidal access to the mangroves.
Quantities of rubbish still remain on the island, but at least this is a start. The Qatar Natural History Group is grateful to the Friends of the Environment Centre and the Ministry of the Environment, which provided heavy-duty plastic sacks and cotton work gloves for the volunteer scavengers. – Fran Gillespie