…And it couldn’t have come to the TRNC sooner!
By Serpil Kadirlar
On 15th September 2018, volunteers and partners in 150 countries worldwide came together to rid our planet of trash – cleaning up litter and mismanaged waste from our beaches, rivers, forests, and streets.
A powerful ‘green wave’ of clean-ups started in New Zealand and ended 36 hours later in Hawaii, with millions of people working towards one goal: a clean and healthy planet.
World Clean-up Day harnesses the power of everyday people to achieve incredible things by joining together. Its beauty lies in cooperation and collaboration: building bridges between disparate communities, and including all levels of society – from citizens, to business, to government.
The movement was born 10 years ago in Estonia, when 4% of the population came out to clean the entire country of illegally dumped waste, in a matter of hours. This captured the imaginations of people worldwide, who were inspired to follow suit with the same ambitious ‘one country, one day’ formula.
This was the beginning of a global bottom-up civic movement, Let’s Do It! World, which has spread like wildfire around the globe. The movement has grown to be the biggest of its kind in the world – uniting people from all corners of the planet to work together in cleaning the world of trash.
But, the Let’s Do It! movement has never been purely about cleaning up trash. It also works to raise global awareness and implement lasting changes to end the global waste epidemic, once and for all.
The movement couldn’t have reached the shores of North Cyprus any sooner. With mountains of years-old garbage littering the island in almost every province and municipality in the country, our island, which is by far one of the most beautiful in the Eastern Mediterranean, is choking in trash which has heavily impacted the environment and wildlife; whether in the sea or on land. Aside from the utter lack of respect and pride we have displayed among the mounds of trash, it is an embarrassing sight to see and a stain upon what is otherwise a beautiful and hospitable country.
Among broken glass, there is always a diamond to be found. And luckily, we have them in human form here in the TRNC…
Before the World Clean-up date arrived, ‘The Keep Lefke Clean!’ group commenced a mere 8 weeks ago (July 2018), through a social media group chat between four friends.
Bradley Hakki, Niyazi Toros, Ali Polili and Mustafa Çorba, who are locals residing in Lefke, were speaking among themselves about the never ending pollution plaguing their town, and in particular the “eyesore” that was a large block of concrete- dumped building waste- along the sea shore.
The four men decided to take initiative, and rather than waiting for the local council to clean up, they did it themselves!
The very first clean-up had begun, and the four men took to breaking the concrete into smaller pieces in order to make the mobility in cleaning it up easier. The local Council, which had gotten word on the hard work of these four men, collected the remaining rubble, and thus, ‘Keep Lefke Clean’ was born.
Over the course of just two months, the group now has 750 members and is the ONLY community based environmental protection group in North Cyprus which consistently engages in the battle against littering. Weekly meet-ups have ensued, with volunteers from not only the local community, but also from the international community, who work together to bring the streets and shores into the pristine condition one would expect from a stunning Mediterranean island.
Bradley said “If people would just be responsible enough to use bins or keep their trash with them until they got home to throw away, we could spend time doing other things for the community. It would be nice if we had the time to paint a local school, or assist the elderly with gardening and home maintenance- ‘Keep Lefke Clean!’ is not just intended to clean up litter, but unfortunately we don’t have time for much else because the litter problem is so bad and never ending!”
The Kyrenia post team joined The ‘Keep Lefke Clean!’ group on the shores of Gemikonağı, Lefke, where a team of volunteers were organised and ready to whip the shoreline into shape.
The group, equipped with bin bags, gloves and high visibility vests, split into two teams and began working from opposite ends of a 5 Kilometre stretch of land and sea towards a central meeting point, where they met at the end of the clean-up, marking their tiring yet triumphant effort.
Contributing to the efforts was Güzelyurt MP Hasan Büyükoğlu, who has now partaken in 4 clean-up efforts alongside the ‘Keep Lefke Clean!’ group in various locations across Lefke. He said, ‘I have spent 20 years trying to publicise the litter problem on this island- unfortunately, those who litter do not clean, and those who clean do not litter, so we need to find a medium where this problem can be fixed. Community projects such as ‘Keep Lefke Clean!’ are amazing for the future vision, progress and solution regarding this problem. Community based projects are often more effective in raising awareness, and are likely to have a lasting affect while building a culture of responsibility for public spaces now and for future generations.”
“Along with other MP’s, we will be collaborating with other areas to push this initiative country wide. It would be so much better if we can fix this problem without having to resort to the unpleasantries of having to impose litter fines on to those who violate laws surrounding littering. “
Also alongside the clean-up efforts was Lefke Councilman Haluk Giray, who said “I have a keen personal interest in the preservation of environment and wildlife. The litter epidemic we are facing in North Cyprus is one which needs to be addressed with urgency. This problem is far beyond the unsightly scenes of rubbish on streets and shore lines- this is an environmental disaster which negatively impacts and depletes plants and sea quality, which will subsequently deplete wildlife populations and this chain will eventually lead to the demise of the people themselves. No living breathing thing, whether plants or animals- can survive in such a mess. 95% of the litter we collect from both land and sea has been plastic, which is probably among one of the worst substances polluting our environment.”
“I will be bringing this issue to the attention of relevant people in order to put forward initiatives which will support ‘Keep Lefke Clean!’, aiming to reach the population throughout the country by encouraging the support of similar groups to become established in other regions on the island while educating the public on the effects of littering and pollution”
The work and dedication from Bradley Hakki, Niyazi Toros, Ali Polili and Mustafa Çorba who formed the ‘Keep Lefke Clean!’ group is highly commendable, and will without a doubt, spawn a new era in North Cyprus, where environmental cleanliness and protection will become a part of our collective daily routine, consciousness and culture. And when that happens, they will be the memorable figures- a part of the few who did not merely complain about the disastrous problem, but took steps to solve it.