A Royal Birthday Clean
Thursday 2nd of April, 2015: a momentous day for the majority for Thailand. This is a day for celebration as it’s the 60th birthday of the often revered Princess Sirindhorn. To mark this momentous day, Thais up and down the country embarked upon a wide variety of tasks and activities. GVI staff where lucky enough to partake in one of these activities with our partners at Thai Mueang National Park, at their reqest.
In honor of the occasion, the national park staff all donned purple polo shirts: purple being the princess’s favorite colour, a gesture mirrored by thousands of people throughout the country. Armed with stiff brushes and a lot of enthusiasm we proceeded to help the twenty + staff members sweep the leaves which had fallen on the grounds of the park. The GVI team were onsite to perform our weekly clean of Thai Mueang beach, but it was a privilege to be invited to partake in what was clearly a cultural event for the national park. The royal family are held in high esteem in Thailand and as the staff remarked, it was a special ‘spring clean’ event to celebrate the birthday of “my princess”, as they affectionately call her. Despite the language barrier, the camaraderie was palpable between the national park staff and GVI team. There were smiles all around and it seemed that our presence was greatly appreciated and highly amusing judging by the laughter and requests for selfies! After sweeping the entire grounds of the national park headquarters, sharing neon green Thai refreshments and posing for numerous group photos, we said our goodbyes and exchanged thanks.
It was wonderful for us to continue to develop this crucial partnership and a fantastic opportunity to interact with the ground staff of the national park. The following week as we arrived for our regular beach clean, we were greeted with smiles and waves from our new friends and the trend of taking photographs continued as the park staff joined us on the beach and documented our litter-picking escapades! It was a particularly impressive performance from our volunteers that week as they collected an impressive 14 bags of rubbish- styrofoam being the most common culprit, but takeout containers, lighters and abandoned flip flops always feature heavily in all our beach cleans.
While picking up litter doesn’t seem like the most glamorous of activities, it’s incredibly satisfying to rid Thailand’s beaches of the negative influences of tourism and restore them to their natural state as pristine paradises! However beach cleans are not just about aesthetics, marine and coastal pollution can be detrimental to the health and safety of not only those visiting the beaches, but of the organisms that live there. Marine debris is found in every major body of water on the planet. It is a global pollution problem that impacts human health and safety, endangers wildlife and aquatic habitats and costs local and national economies millions in wasted resources and lost revenue.
Many people assume that if trash exists in the ocean then fishing and shipping industries are to blame, when really only 20% of the items found in the ocean can be linked to ocean-based sources like commercial fishing vessels, cargo ships and pleasure crafts. The remaining 80% is due to land-based sources, like litter from pedestrians, motorists and beach visitors, industrial discharges and poor garbage management. Marine and coastal debris can directly harm wildlife through entanglement, ingestion and the disruption of habitat. In addition to beach cleans, people can help by preventing the production of marine and coastal waste by making better choices when buying products: Refuse disposables, reducing, reusing and recycling materials, choosing products with little to no packaging, or recycled packaging and correctly disposing of all waste- in particular, cigarette butts. Together we can combat our coastal pollution problem, and if the staff at Thai Mueang National Park and GVI are any indication, doing so can be fun!
Written by Dave Halewood (England), Conservation Coordinator and Leanne Doran (Ireland), Groups Coordinator
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