This exclusive community group in Abu Dhabi conducts Kayaking cleanups in mangrove forests. Conducting cleanups is usual in the UAE, but kayaking cleanups elevate litter picking to a higher standard.
The Sustainable Community Abu Dhabi has wholeheartedly adopted the activity to clean the waters and landscape. Regularly, the group is observed kayaking through the mangrove forests of the emirate while carrying large garbage sacks.
Devoted about sustainability
Founder Natalia Sobko launched the group in June 2022: "I spontaneously arranged a beach cleanup near where I live on Reem Island, and 17 people showed up. Now we have over 1,300 Facebook members from across the city."
After participating in an Emirate Nature- WWF kayak cleanup, the Ukrainian national was motivated to release her litter picks into the water. Several kayaking cleanups around Reem Island and Eastern Mangroves National Park have been hosted since then.
Using the Clean Swell and Sahim applications, the volunteer categorizes and records the collected waste after each session. More than 400 kg of harmful debris has been removed from the waters and landscapes of Abu Dhabi.
Silvia Cinciripini, a Yas Island resident, is among the group's many active members. "There's a lot of man-made waste in the mangrove forests," she says.
"Last time we went to the Eastern Mangroves, it took us two hours just to clean a small area. Alongside the usual plastic bottles and plastic bags, we found huge pieces of thick carpet that we presumed had been used for construction. They were very heavy and hard to pick up."
Finding a car seat on one of the islands was another surprise.
"It looked like it has been there for years, and I have no idea how it got there," adds Cinciripini. "It was too big to fit in our kayaks, but the group came back another time to break it up and take it away in pieces. We've also found long plastic pipes and old books. It's so frustrating when we're not able to collect some of the larger items."
An inclusive activity
Cinciripini enjoys performing her kayak cleanups.
"Anyone can do a kayaking clean up; it doesn't have to be an organized event. That's the beauty of it. You can rent kayaks at both the Eastern Mangroves and Reem Park, and it's such a rewarding and satisfying activity," says the Italian.
"Yas Island has some stunning mangroves, and I once saw a flock of flamingos out there. They were so close to the hotels but just hidden around the other side of the trees."
Sharing passion with friends
The community was relatively new to the city and helped Cinciripini make friends and settle in. "It's difficult to find people who share my passion for sustainability, and I'm so grateful to have found the community. It's the biggest group of its kind in the city and the most active. It's amazing what Natalia has created," she concludes.
Sobko arranges farm visits, art sessions, green picnics and other sustainable activities by working with her co-administrator, Katerina Karpova. She motivates her members to participate in arid cleanups and mangrove planting initiatives coordinated by other organizations.
"Whenever we do a cleanup, passersby stop and join in. Spending time in nature and doing a good deed always feels good," notes Sobko. "I always say, Be the change you wish to see in the world.' By encouraging behavioural change and environmental action, we are protecting our mangrove forests and ensuring that one day they will be completely free from litter."
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