By Hope Nda
Motivated by the desire for a better planet, more than 300 volunteers descended on the Limbe coastline, notably Bobende, Limbola and Etisa Beaches, where they cleared off heaps of garbage on Saturday, September 17.
The volunteers, who came from the towns of Buea, Mutengene, Douala and Limbe, were rallied by the Association for Community Awareness, ASCOA, as it commemorated the 2022 International Coastal Clean-up Day.
At Bobende Beach, which is just a few kilometres from the National Oil Refinery, SONARA, a team of nearly 80 volunteers was dispatched.
In about four hours of coordinated work, the volunteers transformed a previously dirty, littered Bobende Beach into a sanctuary of freshness. Most of the debris collected was water and beverage plastic bottles. Footwear also constituted a large part of the trash.
Common debris also included fishing nets, pieces of clothing, broken bottles and ceramic tiles, coconut shells, and all sorts of tiny pieces.
While some volunteers were assigned to pick specific types of debris, others were in charge of weighing the trash and recording the figures.
“I was in charge of gathering Supermont plastics and also I helped the team that was involved in weighing the various plastics and the other components,” said Kilian Fombutu, who volunteered at Bobende Beach.
The exercise was Kilian’s way of being part of his community. “For me, it’s a way of trying to keep the environment clean. One of the things is that volunteering is a way that you try to be part of your community, be part of your country.”
Blandine Chimo, a university student in Buea, said she opted for the beach clean-up because of her passion for the environment.
“I discovered that a healthy environment will guarantee a healthy mankind. When the beach is not clean and when we get to deposit debris into the sea, it’s not good for the life forms that live below water,” she said.
Her wish is that people could learn how to manage their waste better and not dump them near the sea.
The recent clean-up was one of the regular exercises that Cameroonian-based NGOs like ASCOA carry out yearly along the Limbe coastline.
The coastline, which stretches eastward to Idenau, receives tons of marine debris yearly, most of them consisting in plastic bottles. But single exercises like this are hardly sufficient to keep the seaside debris-free.
“Most people have abandoned the coastline. They take it as a dump site for plastic, which is not the case,” said ASCOA’s Executive Director, Solomon Takwi Tanue.
“So, we are trying to talk to the population and the communities around the coastline – that such plastics are detrimental to the marine life, which will in turn hinder our food stuff.”
ASCOA had planned to collect 300 tons of unsorted waste and 2,000 tons of plastics; it ended up collecting a quantity that could be more or less than that.
The city of Limbe in the Southwest Region has been one of Cameron’s touristic hubs due to its beautiful beaches. But some of these beaches have lost their touristic beauty to marine litter.
Down Beach, a popular beachside in the city, remains overwhelmed by marine debris. ASCOA said it will need more than double the number of volunteers it mobilised on Septtember 17 to clean-up the area.
According to Ruth Enjema Koffi, Environmental Coordinator for ASCOA, 80 percent of this marine debris comes from land-based sources.
Generally, marine debris is processed or manufactured solid material that is disposed of or abandoned in the ocean or along the coastline, says the United Nations Environmental Programme, UNEP.
Marine debris has remained one of the major pollutants of not only the Limbe coastline, as no place is immune to it. UNEP has warned of its dangers to marine life and to humans as it causes a “wide spectrum of environmental, economic, safety, health, and cultural impacts”.