Campers leave mounds of rubbish on UAE's pristine beaches as staycations surge

Authorities step up inspections as broken TVs, chandeliers and lightbulbs discarded - and some have even abandoned dogs

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Increasing numbers of campers are leaving piles of litter on the UAE’s pristine beaches as staycations surge.

Broken TVs, chandeliers and lightbulbs are some of the items discarded by thoughtless people on the Umm Al Quwain and Ras Al Khaimah coast - and some have even abandoned dogs there.

Local environmentalists say the situation has been exacerbated by Covid-19, with previously empty beaches now filled with camper vans parked there for months on end, despite being warned by authorities to leave or else face prosecution.

It is lovely that people want to come here to camp. But it would be even lovelier if they decided to tidy up after themselves

“There’s nothing wrong with more people than before using the beaches except many don’t bother to take their stuff away with them when they leave,” said Paul Rivers, 63, a retired schoolteacher who is part of RAK Green Ambassadors - a group of volunteers who clean the local beaches.

“It is worst during the weekends and at night when people are camping," he said.

“We have even found two abandoned dogs in recent months and for some reason we are always finding coat hangers wherever we go,” said the Briton.

RAK Green Ambassadors was established in 2017 and met once or twice a week to help reduce the level of litter on beaches in the emirate.

Since coronavirus struck,  Al Jazeera Beach - close to the Al Hamra Village development - has substantial amounts of people camping there throughout the winter months.

Some of the caravans are barely a metre apart in some cases, according to Mr Rivers. He said most of the people who are currently camped out on the beach have been there for months, something that was not the case in pre-pandemic winters.

A discarded TV was among the items found on beaches in Umm Al Quwain and Ras Al Khaimah. Courtesy: Paul Rivers
A discarded TV was among the items found on beaches in Umm Al Quwain and Ras Al Khaimah. Courtesy: Paul Rivers

Many of the caravans are kitted out with equipment such as septic tanks and sewage systems that require holes to be dug in the sand underneath, suggesting they were there for prolonged stays.

A Ras Al Khaimah Municipality representative said they were aware of the caravan owners staying long after their permits to be on the beach had expired - which usually are only valid for a few days. Authorities are now stepping up efforts to remove them.

"Most, if not all, have received notice they have to vacate," said the representative.

“The concerned authorities in Ras Al Khaimah regularly send inspection teams to ensure that all public beaches in the Emirate are kept in excellent condition, removing litter and issuing fines to violators who flout the rules and regulations.

“Authorities, including Ras Al Khaimah Municipality, Ras Al Khaimah Public Services Department and law enforcement, work closely to ensure anyone residing on beaches illegally are fined and removed from the location. This is a continuous effort due to the mobility of caravans."

Swede Maria Lundberg, 57, is another volunteer who spends her time helping to keep the beaches clean of litter and debris from partying campers.

“It’s lovely that people want to come here to camp and have picnics with their friends and family,” she said.

“But it would be even lovelier if they just decided to tidy up after themselves.

“The amount of garbage we are picking up after people is increasing all the time. It’s a shame because we were picking up momentum in terms of keeping the beaches clean before the pandemic, it’s gone downhill ever since.”

A senior figure from Ras Al Khaimah Waste Management Agency said the increase in litter was chiefly down to an increase in weekend visitors.

“What makes them think it’s okay to behave like this in Ras Al Khaimah?” said Wafa Hanoun.

Beach clean up in Ras Al Khaimah

Ras Al Khaimah's green army is losing the battle

Ras Al Khaimah's green army is losing the battle