In anticipation of World Environment Day, Lebanon’s most active NGO, SWIM Lebanon (Sustainable Waste Intercity Marathon), organised a relay swim - where multiple swimmers participate as a team - connecting the islands on the coast of Tripoli and a thorough beach clean-up of Al Bakar island.
By Lisa Sofian & Nabil Aouad
In the past years, the Lebanese NGO became a synonym for various beach and shore-line clean-up initiatives in Lebanon, combined with swimming events. All are organised by volunteers who stand up against environmental pollution in the country of the cedar.
Once dubbed the Switzerland of the Middle East, environmental negligence in the country is one of the biggest challenges in 2023. A corrupt and incompetent political elite, who brought the country to the brink of economic collapse, could not care less about the environment.
That is evident wherever you go.
Some non-profit organisations like SWIM Lebanon are working hard to turn the tide and raise awareness amongst the countries’ younger generations by organising frequent beach clean-ups.
So they did again; on June 3, almost 50 enthusiastic swimmers arrived in Northern Lebanon, despite harsh weather conditions. Ready to hit the waves and defy Mother Nature’s fury.
For a good cause.
As early as 5:30 am, the first volunteers arrived at the Tripoli Corniche, listening carefully to briefings from SWIM-Founder Nabil Aouad, Head of Safety Marcos Hhado, Swimmers Chief Sevag Demerdjian and the Head of Civil Defence Ismael Dalaty.
Directly after the first team hit the waves, the weather difficulties became apparent, as the swimmers were facing the strong west and southwest waves which deprived most of their kayak or SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) support.
Despite the challenge, the swimmers reached Rabbit Island, where the decision was taken not to continue swimming and visit the remaining islands by boat.
Despite its name, there are no more rabbits on the island, officially called Palm Island. It got its name during the French mandate in the early 20th century when it was a breeding place for Rabbits. There are other animals to be spotted: green turtles, monk seals and several species of birds.
After the tour of Tripoli’s offshore islands was completed, the return trip by boat could best be described as epic and worthy of a Six Flags rollercoaster ride.
Upon arrival to Mina, adrenaline was at its peak when. The courageous swimmers saw a big crowd of volunteers waiting for them. At least 220 volunteers, from school children to Army soldiers, the Red Cross youth, the Orthodox Scouts, the Environmental Scouts and volunteers of the Minaty Association, were already rounding up the cleaning of Al Bakar Island and its surroundings.
Almost ten cubic meters of waste and recyclables were collected and sent to @TRI Recycling Plant for treatment. A lunch ceremony followed, where certificates and medals and seashell bracelets were distributed to the participants.
Mission accomplished, and, of course, happy birthday Mother Nature.