Young eco caregivers scrub polluted Tortola coastlines

By JOHN HOWELL The Daily Fray
October 1, 2015 6:21 pm

DSC03111.JPGRomani Christopher arrived at Road Reef in Tortola recently with latex gloves, garbage bags, and an improbable smile. “I think cleaning up our environment is fun,” Ms. Christopher said. “You find a lot of things you’ve never seen.”

Ms. Christopher, 15, and roughly 30 members of eCamps BVI were contributing to an annual worldwide initiative to restore polluted coastlines. The dirty work was part of a British Virgin Islands contribution to the 30th International Coastal Cleanup.

“When we first started I said, wow, there’s really a lot of trash,” said Ms. Christopher, a secondary student at St. George’s School. “There were a lot of bottles and we found a TV in the cove.”

Last year’s International Coastal Cleanup involved more than 560,000 volunteers in 91 countries who collected 16 million pounds of rubbish, according to the Ocean Conservancy, which started the Cleanup in 1986.

The rubbish at Road Reef included cans, plastic and glass bottles, shoes, car parts, Styrofoam cups, and assorted clothing. A rusty metal boat trailer was discarded in the mangroves.

“The message we want the children to learn is that valuing their environment and keeping your environment clean is crucial to your overall quality of life,” said Portia Harrigan, director of eCamps BVI.

The Cleanup in the Virgin Islands began Sept. 17 and runs to Oct. 5, said Jasmine Bannis, program director at the Department of Conservation and Fisheries. So far, Mrs. Bannis said, 17 groups are committed to the Cleanup. The hope is more groups will take part by contacting Conservation and Fisheries, which provides gloves, garbage bags, and water, Mrs. Bannis said.

“All we’re asking for is a few hours of your time,” Mrs. Bannis said. “Any location of your choice.”

Volunteers for Conservation and Fisheries combed Cane Garden Bay on Friday. On Saturday, members of Tortola’s Rotary family pitched in at Brandywine Bay Beach. The HLSCC Environmental Club helped at Road Town Ferry Terminal and the BVI Ports Authority at Baughers Bay.

The Rotaract Club of Virgin Gorda took responsibility at St. Thomas Bay.

“By doing this service I help myself and I help my community,” Ms. Christopher said.

Ms. Harrigan said many of her volunteers in Road Reef take part in eCamps BVI’s trips abroad, including a visit to Spain earlier this summer. The exposure provides perspective, Ms. Harrigan said.

“Because they travel and because they see other major cities, they know everywhere you go in the world people are nasty,” Ms. Harrigan said. “But other countries have rules and regulations and enforcement and there are penalties. We don’t enforce that here.”

Equally important in the Cleanup is education, Ms. Harrigan said.

“The first thing some of them said when they came here today is, ‘Oh, people are nasty. This is so nasty,’” Ms. Harrigan said. “They can see the difference of being in a clean environment and a not-so-clean environment. I think they are aware and now they get to spread the message to other young people and other people in the community.”

Last year’s Cleanup in the Virgin Islands involved 112 volunteers who collected 1,725 pounds of rubbish. The volunteers scrubbed 9.3 miles and collected 6,657 trash items, according to the Ocean Conservancy. Plastic material, including food wrappers, bottles, caps, and grocery bags, accounted for a third of the garbage.

Other eco offenders were 641 cigarette butts and 703 glass bottles.

“We do have a serious issue with litter in the country,” Ms. Harrigan said.


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