Shining Up The Pearl

Yesterday was such an eye-opener. We knew Gurney Drive was dirty but what sort of dirty, well, we didn’t know.

We decided to join the Penang Government initiative on the beach and coastal clean-up for World Earth Day (which happens this Thursday 22 April and they’re going to plant mangrove trees then). This was a simultaneous beach clean up at 3 spots: Gurney Drive, Tanjung Bungah and Batu Feringgi.

If going by the response of Penangites towards this beach cleanup (some 1,800 people turned up at Gurney Drive early in the morning, all gung-ho and ready to leap into action), we either care a lot about the dirty image of Penang and want to do something about it OR we really like these mass gatherings and take it as a CSR or fun outing. (Starbucks did. So did Adventist. So did a bunch of other companies and businesses.)

Anyway, it doesn’t matter because if in the end we learnt something, it would be worth foregoing the sleep.

And we all got dirty and muddy and smelly.

The thing about cleaning up Gurney Drive is that there are a lot of huge granite rocks hugging the shoreline. We had to form a group of five each and inform our leader what rubbish we picked up as USM wanted to obtain data about the rubbish along the shoreline.

Roger and Betty, a couple from Australia, joined us. Roger was a retired gynecologist currently teaching at the Penang Medical College while Betty, his wife, had just come over from Melbourne.

The only thing which I felt could be improved was the protocol. Everyone waited about for the VIPs to come and give their speeches. The day was turning rather warm. It would’ve been great if we all started around 7am as the day was still pleasantly cool. Instead we started clambering down the shoreline about 8am and the sun was beating down our backs.

The good thing was, the organizers did not pass out bottles of mineral water to the participants. Everyone was reminded to bring their own drinking water.

I really don’t know what people do at the beach but here’s what we picked up – balloons, sanitary pads (yuck), diapers, plastic spoons, straws, plastic bags, styrofoam, bathroom tiles, cigarette boxes, tin cans, sweet wrappers, food wrappers and clothes. Our group filled up 3 gunny sacks with rubbish and we only covered this tiny area less than 5 feet in radius!

Most rubbish were wedged between the rocks. And we didn’t dare step on the mud as it sucked your shoes in! And the smell!

Whoa, what a smell.

But like Earth Hour where we switched off lights for an hour, it needs more than just 1 day of effort. It needs collective effort to stop producing and throwing rubbish.

And really, do we really need to use plastic cutlery and styrofoam when they all end up clogging our beaches?

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