Sand and sea – minus the trash

Picked clean: Members of Geng Plastik Ija hard at work, cleaning up the beach at Pantai Pandak. — Bernama

KUALA TERENGGANU: The beauty of Terengganu’s coast, stretching 244km, which is set against the backdrop of the islands in the South China Sea, is indeed mesmerising.

However, the enchanting view of the blue ocean is sometimes marred by litter on the beach because of some irresponsible people who simply throw rubbish at will.

Disappointed with the situation, about 100 members of a group known as “Geng Plastic Ija” or “Green Plastic Gang” would get together every weekend to collect the rubbish and clean the beach area.

Its chairman Zulkefli Sarji said it was a routine every weekend for members to wear their green T-shirt and with green plastic bags in hand to pick up litter in the area.

Zulkefli said, in the beginning, it was just his wife Normazita Ali, 45, and him, who started the initiative.

“We always spent the afternoon walking on the beach.

“It is an eyesore to see so much litter left by visitors and picnickers, so we decided to collect them during our evening stroll, and it then became a routine, ” he said during a programme to clean Pantai Pandak in Chendering here.

The group was set up in 2017 and its members include professionals.

“After that, a few friends joined us. When we posted our activities on social media, more people came forward and this led to the setting up of the group, ” said the 52-year-old engineer with an oil and gas company.

Zulkefli said during the early stages, the group focused on the beaches in Kemaman and Dungun, as most of the members were from there.

However, in 2019, when more people, including from Kuala Terengganu, joined the group, they expanded their activities to the coastal areas in Kuala Terengganu, Marang, Setiu and Besut.

Apart from fulfilling their fardhu kifayah responsibility as Muslims, Zulkefli said the group hoped their action would be emulated by others to help maintain cleanliness of beaches.

“When the beach is beautiful and clean, many people, including outsiders visit.

“Indirectly, it can improve the economy of the locals as they can do business selling food and other things, ” he said.

Zulkefli said the group also involved the participation of students, including from tahfiz centres and schools, in an effort to educate the younger generation to be more responsible towards the cleanliness of the environment.

A group representative from Kuala Terengganu, Dr Mohd Arif Hafizi, 31, said during one of its programmes at Pantai Kemasik in Kemaman last August, its members managed to collect 389kg of rubbish in just a few hours.

He said, normally, 70% to 80% of the rubbish found on the beaches were flotsam, as well as fishing nets and glass bottles, especially during the monsoon season, with the remaining being leftover food, tissue papers and plastic bags.

“Plastic rubbish is the most worrying because it is difficult to decompose and can threaten marine life if carried by the waves into the sea, ” said the doctor at Sultanah Nur Zahirah Hospital.

Dr Mohd Arif’s wife Dr Fatin Nurliyana Mohd Zain, 28, who also joined in the cleaning programme, said rubbish, such as plastic bottles and papers, that they collected would be sent to recycling centres.

One of the young participants Aufa Irdina Najmi Mohd Nazri, 12, from Kemaman, said she would wake up as early as 5am on weekends to follow her mother Shamni Mohamad, 45, and father Mohd Nazri Abdullah, 47, to collect rubbish on the beach.

“If the cleaning programme is further away from Kemaman, such as Kuala Terengganu, my siblings and I will have to get up even earlier.

“It is tiring but I am happy because after the task is over, we can play in a beautiful and clean environment, ” said the girl, who was with her siblings Mohd Dafiq Dayan Najmi, nine, and Aissa Balqish Najmi, six. — Bernama

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