When it comes to beaches in the UAE, be it rain or sunshine, residents and tourists alike are seen dotting the shoreline. Hence, it is extremely challenging to keep these places clean. Asha Uniyal finds out more.
In the UAE, a major recreation for expatriates and Emiratis involves spending time at the gorgeous beaches that the more than 650 km shoreline along the Persian Gulf. While, it works in favour of the citizens and tourists, the flipside of this is the beauty of these beaches that needs to be maintained – they are no more naturally clean. Whilst beaches constitute an integral element of the policy for attracting more tourists to the UAE, increased footfalls on the beaches would also have a derogatory effect on them. Hence, it is important to maintain a fine balance between beach attractiveness and environment conservation.
With human-originated pollution impacting them, organised effort is required to keep the beaches beautiful and clean. Manual labour does not accomplish this desired goal fully because the cleaning companies and municipality can’t effectively clean below the sand surface. What is needed is more mechanised and extensive cleaning for the beaches. This need is a collective response to the challenges that beach cleaners face. Shells and the litter left behind by beach-goers buried in the dredged sand can be a hindrance and harmful to other people, causing painful cuts to bare feet. This debris is usually hard on the standard beach cleaning equipment as well. Trash at the beach is a hazard to the people as well as to the marine life since it contaminates the sea water. Litter such as cigarette butts or plastic that the beach goers usually leave behind also need to be cleared. Other trash could include anything such as glass, syringes, plastic bottles, cans, cigarettes, shells, stone.
With the economy in the UAE picking up pace once again and also due to government impetus, both Dubai and Sharjah are witnessing an increasing number of tourists. This has naturally increased the footfalls on the beaches. Integrated environmental and waste management company Bee’ah, undertakes cleaning of beaches in Sharjah,
UAE. Marwan Al Shamsi, Director, UAE Collection and Cleansing Business, Bee’ah, states, “Sharjah is in the middle of a tourism boom. The official statistics concerning the number of arrivals, revenue from tourism and investments in infrastructure projects to support the Emirate’s tourism growth all contribute to the number of visitors to the beaches and the frequency with which Bee’ah operates beach cleaning facilities.”
He continues, “Beach attractiveness is integral to environmental concerns. It is in line with our strategic goals, which aim to fulfil the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, of ensuring that the environment is maintained properly and is directed towards an environmentally sustainable future. Beach attractiveness therefore requires conserving and protecting the natural integrity of our beaches, both for current and future generations in accordance with the core principles of sustainability research.”
Bee’ah’s mission is aimed at ensuring that the Emirate’s residents and visitors enjoy safe beaches, free from pollution, waste and debris that could mar the enjoyment of visitors to Sharjah. Its work also serves as an important message to the community - advising them to keep the marine environment clean and free from waste, as beach cleanliness is a cornerstone in keeping a biological balance for humans and sea creatures alike.
Bee’ah is an award-winning company that has acquired efficient and innovative beach cleaning technologies – the first of its kind in the region - which is currently being utilised to clean the beaches of Sharjah. Shamsi says, “The Cherrington 5500 and BeachTech Marina – the two latest additions to Bee’ah’s beach cleaning resources - will be added to the company’s current fleet, which includes ultra-modern beach and street cleaning vehicles, waste suction trucks and washing trucks, road vacuum sweepers, utility pole washers amongst many more types of cleaning equipment.” The Cherrington 5500 offers an exclusive ‘lift and screen’ method, while the BeachTech Marina 2800 offers a wide working width, with a lower weight, excellent performance and lower fuel consumption.
The beach cleaning process, using these new vehicles that drive up and down the beaches, involves collecting and screening waste including debris, regardless of size and weight, using the latest integrated technologies to monitor and detect waste using remote sensor and computerised systems to identify geographical and technical details. The entire process seeks to raise the level of services provided to the public, particularly when it comes to the high level of cleanliness in most popular public places for locals and visitors alike.
Abdulmajeed Abdulaziz Saifaie, Director, Waste Management, Dubai Municipality, concurs with Shamsi. He says, “Dubai Municipality’s Waste Management Department’s mission is to provide the best services to society, applying the highest standards of comprehensive sustainable waste management to keep Dubai clean; this includes the city, beaches and the desert. We organise several campaigns every year to spread awareness amongst our residents.” In fact, the department has at least five to 10 private companies contacting it every year to organise beach-cleaning campaigns.”
Speaking about how the municipality undertakes the cleaning of the beaches of Dubai, Saifaie says, “Beach cleaning is a daily, 24-hour process in Dubai. The beaches are long, several portions of which are owned by private developers, and it is their responsibility to maintain those stretches of sand. Dubai Municipality undertakes cleaning of public beaches like Jumeirah beach and Mamzar beach. Our beach side-walk cleaning staff works in three shifts, while the beach cleaning staff works in two. The beaches are cleaned every morning using specialised beach cleaning machines.”
Professional beach cleaning today incorporates advanced technology and equipment. Various methods and machines are used to clean the beach area, which comprises the sand, the side walk, water, etc. Saifaie says, “Different techniques are used for cleaning the beaches, such as putting garbage bins along the beaches, cleaning litter, and cleaning sand using modern sand-cleaning machines. Bins are emptied throughout the day as they keep filling up fast. Cleaning up the litter on the beach is also an ongoing process. Sand cleaning is done every morning.” He adds that the beach cleaning staff starts their work early in the morning at 5 a.m. so that early morning visitors have a clean space.
Shamsi adds, “The beach cleaning process includes deploying the most sophisticated and modern technology. Our equipment and new vehicles maximise beach cleaning efficiency and keep the beaches clean and free from waste and unwanted solid materials and debris.” The Bee’ah vehicles currently in operation use the ‘Lift and Sift’ screening method - the fastest and most efficient beach cleaning process, which, apart from cleaning, also helps reduce the concentration of E.Coli bacteria and bacterial growth by exposing the sand to the sun’s rays. He says, “As a fully integrated environment and waste management company, Bee’ah takes great care in its beach cleaning responsibility. While beach cleaning may only be a small element of our overall mission to become the leading environmental agency in the region, it is an important one, as the visitors to Sharjah’s beautiful beaches will confirm.”
When it comes to challenges, one of the biggest that the municipality faces is that of cigarette butts; Saifaie says, “Most people who come to the beach to relax, throw their finished cigarette butts into the sand – these butts mixed with sand harm the environment; the toxins in the filter contaminate the water, and birds and sea animals consume them thinking they are food. This is the case despite us placing ash trays along with the garbage bins at the beaches.”
Dubai Municipality has in place a proactive engagement initiative regarding the entire beach cleaning operation. And, this involves seeking public opinion about its performance – which is then used as an input to craft the next year’s policy and for increasing operational efficiency. Saifaie shares, “Every year, we conduct a survey to get the public’s opinion on how to clean the city and also to get their suggestions. In 2013, 89 per cent of the people were happy with the cleanliness of the beaches. A lot of our strategies and planning for the next year are based on the survey results.”
He also adds, “If people become more aware and keep the beaches clean it would help the cleaning staff as well. We have put up lots of sign boards and notice boards at the beaches to spread awareness. We have also made strict rules against littering and throwing cigarette butts on the beach – any perpetrator is fined AED 500.” Saifaie concludes, “We hope people become aware about the need for clean beaches and hope that people in Dubai enjoy the beaches and keep them clean so that others, too, can enjoy them.”