Morocco’s litter-strewn beaches kick up a stink

A child plays at the beach of Rabat on July 12, 2018 Every summer, the Moroccan press publishes reports revolted on the state of different beaches of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.(AFP)
Updated 20 July 2018
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Morocco’s litter-strewn beaches kick up a stink

  • Every summer, Morocco’s media publish reports lambasting the condition of sands stretching from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic
  • A nationwide ban on platic bags imposed in 2016 appears to have done little to stem the tide of rubbish piling up on beaches

RABAT: Blessed with a coastline that stretches for hundreds of kilometers across flat sandy expanses and rugged coves, Morocco’s beaches should be a magnet — but a litter crisis risks repelling sun seekers, citizens say.
On a small beach in the capital Rabat the words “Keep your city clean” are daubed across largely empty bins, seemingly mocked by the detritus on the ground.
The litter “spoils the pleasure,” says 22-year-old Said, who has come to Oudayas beach for a dip with friends to cool off on a hot day.
“Unfortunately, people don’t realize the importance of keeping beaches clean,” he laments, surrounded by cigarette butts and other trash, just a few steps from the edge of the old city.
Some feel they are fighting a losing battle.
“Rubbish collectors clean the beach from top to bottom every morning, but in the evening, bathers leave it even dirtier,” says a local official.
“Perhaps megaphones should be used to sensitise the people and embarrass the polluters,” the official adds.
The state of this small beach in the capital is far from unique.
Every summer, Morocco’s media publish reports lambasting the condition of sands stretching from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic.
A nationwide ban on platic bags imposed in 2016 appears to have done little to stem the tide of rubbish piling up on beaches, despite authorities strictly enforcing the measure.
The problem is in part generated outside Morocco — Greenpeace estimates that the equivalent of a truckload of plastic enters the world’s seas every 60 seconds.
And the activist group said in June it had found microplastics in samples collected in Antarctic waters.
But volunteers who take part in beach clean-ups say far too many Moroccans dump refuse without a second thought.
“In recent years we’ve seen water pollution increase due to a lack of awareness,” says 45-year-old Mohammed el Machkour, president of the Al Marjane sporting association.
Only 21 out of 40 beaches nominated nationwide for the coveted international “Blue Flag” status have met criteria, due to litter, poor water quality and other issues.
In Morocco’s commercial capital, netizens post indignantly on a “Save Casablanca” Facebook page.
“The people are disgusting,” one post says; “there is no environmental policing,” laments another, while a third demands the council provide more bins.
And it is not only beaches that are affected.
Returning from a recent lakeside walk near Rabat, Britain’s ambassador to Morocco Thomas Reilly tweeted his horror.
“The place has been ruined by plastic waste, sandwich remains, bottles and filth... it was disgusting. Morocco deserves better,” he said.
In a bid to shore up tourism, Morocco has launched several initiatives over the last couple of decades to improve the beaches.
An environmental body established in the king’s name spearheads annual beach clean-ups and funds television advertising campaigns.
The Mohammed VI Foundation has also worked to improve water quality — with some apparent success.
An analysis of 165 beaches at the start of the summer season showed 97 percent of waters “conform with microbiological standards,” compared to 72 percent in 2002, according to the secretary of state for the environment.
But back in Rabat, people still complain.
The hygiene “situation isn’t much better under the water,” says 25-year-old Hassan, near the beach.
In early July, a local association asked divers to volunteer to clean Sale marina, opposite Oudayas beach.
After two hours in the water, the divers recovered a litany of items, from iron bars to plastic bottles.
“We have taken part in cleaning a patch of the waters — hopefully people will understand the importance of keeping the beach clean,” says 22-year-old diver Alaeddine.
The divers are determined to bring about a culture change, even as they swim against the tide.
“We don’t claim to be able to clean all the sea and river, but we want to send a message on the importance of protecting the environment, above all to young people,” says another volunteer.


Pastor talks of breakdown in Turkey, but also of forgiveness

Trump was insistent on Brunson’s release without conditions. (AP)
Updated 53 min 55 sec ago
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Pastor talks of breakdown in Turkey, but also of forgiveness

  • Brunson was accused of links to Kurdish militants and a US-based Muslim cleric whom Turkey blames for a failed coup in 2016

VIRGINIA BEACH: The American pastor recently released after two years of confinement in Turkey said on Friday that he suffered a breakdown during his time in prison and was put on anti-anxiety medication.
Andrew Brunson said he was deprived of books — even a Bible — for long stretches of time. For eight months, he spent 24 hours a day with more than 20 men in a cell designed for eight.
But the worst of it, he said, was the uncertainty. The pastor who had led a small congregation faced the possibility of life in a Turkish prison if convicted on charges of terrorism and related counts, accusations he still calls “ridiculous.”
“I didn’t do very well,” Brunson said of living in the crowded prison cell. “It was very high stress, and I was sleeping three to four hours maximum a day. And I was really struggling a great deal. I didn’t know how long this would continue. I didn’t know why I was in prison.”
He added: “I really had a breakdown emotionally. And I received medication for anxiety because I was just a basket case.”
Sitting next to his wife, Norine, Brunson spoke inside the Virginia Beach headquarters of the Christian Broadcasting Network after an interview on “The 700 Club,” among other CBN shows. The network closely followed his ordeal, which became a cause celebre for evangelical Christians as well as President Donald Trump.
Earlier this month, Brunson was convicted in Turkey and sentenced to more than three years in prison. But he was freed and allowed to leave for the two years he had already spent in custody. For the past few months, he had been on house arrest.
Brunson was accused of links to Kurdish militants and a US-based Muslim cleric whom Turkey blames for a failed coup in 2016.
Upon his return, Brunson, 50, visited the White House and placed his hand on Trump’s shoulder in prayer before asking God to provide the president “supernatural wisdom to accomplish all the plans you have for this country and for him.”
Trump was insistent on Brunson’s release without conditions. And the president maintained there was no deal for Brunson’s freedom.
Brunson said on Friday that he was unaware of any deals. And he pointed out that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had previously suggested trading Brunson for Pennsylvania-based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who is accused by Turkey of engineering a failed coup in 2016. The swap was never made.
The Brunsons, who spent 25 years in Turkey, said they still love the country but cannot return any time soon. They said they do not know what is next, but they view their ordeal as part of God’s plan.
“We haven’t done anything great,” Brunson said. “But for so many people in so many countries to be praying for us, this is something that God did. It was not just to bless me. He’s using that to bless Turkey.”
In the meantime, the couple is still recovering from the past two years, which included Norine Brunson’s arrest with her husband and the two weeks she spent with him in prison.
She was released and allowed to stay in the country while he was shipped around to various prisons. Their children, then ages 15, 18 and 21, were in the US and have remained there.
The Brunsons said they still do not know why the Turkish government made its accusations. Their missionary work was legal and out in the open for more than two decades.
But they said they were American Christians, who are viewed with suspicion in Turkey. And they were there after the failed coup.
Brunson said Turkish authorities never offered any proof to support the charges — no emails, no social media postings or recordings.
But people the Brunsons had known testified against him. It is something the pastor is still processing.
“It’s not an option not to forgive; we are required to as Christians,” Brunson said. “Is it easy? No. But God forgave me. As I get emotions that come back, I say, ‘I forgive.’”