LANGKAWI: Shampoo bottles with all-Chinese labels; drink containers and food wrappers with Thai words; instant noodle polystyrene cups with instructions in Indonesian – these are some of the flotsam that mars the beauty of the island’s geoparks.
Sea currents owing to the archipelago’s location between the Straits of Malacca and the Andaman Sea cause the parks to be the unfortunate recipients of rubbish dumped into the sea by neighbouring countries.
“In parts of the park like Teluk Dalam and Pasir Panjang, almost all the rubbish washed up comes from Thailand or Indonesia.
“There’s nothing we can do about it except to maintain intense cleaning efforts,” said Langkawi Development Authority (Lada) public relations officer Khairulnizam Abdul Ghalim.
The nature of the rubbish became apparent after 1,200 volunteers fanned out into the 83sq km of the Kilim Karst Geoforest Park on Saturday.
They used 100 boats skippered by naval officers and spent about three hours combing the shores of the limestone islands and rivers snaking through the mangrove swamps for rubbish.
Several more sweeper boats were employed to collect the bags of rubbish from the volunteers.
Nearly all the flotsam picked up were plastic discards in myriad forms and chunks of polystyrene, though fluorescent lamp tubes, ropes from ships were also found.
“The volunteers collected 4.5 tonnes of rubbish which had a volume of about 20 cubic metres,” Khairulnizam said.
The cleanup was organised by the Rotary Club of Langkawi with the support of Lada, Langkawi Naval Region III and several public agencies and private companies.
Khairulnizam said Lada’s cleaning crew would go out every spring tide when the water level is highest.
“We collect over 50 big plastic bags of rubbish each time.”
Depending on wind directions, he said between 30% and 50% of rubbish collected would be from either Thailand or Indonesia.
However, he estimated that 50% to 70% of the rubbish originated from Malaysia’s northern states.
“We hope those in Kedah, Perlis and Penang will realise that when they throw rubbish indiscriminately into the drains, there is a chance that it ends up here.
“This is the oldest limestone islands and mangrove swamps in the country and we need all Malaysians to help us protect it.”