The Beach Samaritans have a mission- clean the beaches, return them to a state of glory. What would that take? The tools and manpower… and someone with enough drive to lead the pack.
That’s Pelu Awofeso! The CNN award-winning writer and publisher of waka about is on a personal errand to improve the state of leisure in Nigeria, one beach at a time.
If you could change one thing in the world… looks like you chose “clean the beaches”. What inspired that decision?
Asides cultural and historical tourism, my professional interests also include leisure tourism of which beaches are a significant part. Nigeria has 800+ KM of coastline and almost every inch of the beachfront on that stretch is dirty, and unpardonably so. It’s a shame that none of the beaches in Nigeria ranks among the best 50 on the continent. So all we want to achieve with the beach cleaning initiative is simply to call attention of both governments at the public to a wasting, neglected natural asset.
How many beaches have you cleaned up so far?
We have cleaned five beaches so far: Alpha Beach, Tarkwa Bay Beach, Ibeshe Beach, Ilashe Beach and Lekki Town Beach—and all these between October 2014 and June 2015.
What are the kind of feed backs and reactions you get from the community?
The reactions are diverse- unbelief and appreciation being the topmost emotions. Our volunteers are fulfilled to have been able to donate their time (some sacrifice important family and social engagements), render some sort of charitable community service; our host communities are surprised to hear—and see—that complete strangers have come all the way from far-off place just to help clean up the beaches in their localities. We are often amused, yet gladdened, when they ask us to return to do more of the same. Unfortunately, there are still more dirty beaches to visit countrywide, so we have not been able to make any repeat visits.
The holidays are here (for some, it is summer!), that means the beaches are going to get dirtier. What plans do you have for the season?
The seasons have no bearing on our clean up as such, because we visit a new beach once every two months anyways. And summer or not, the beaches, as I have hinted, are in a permanent state of dirtiness.
It’s just seems like Lagos is one big dump. How can you maintain this culture of beach sanitation?
I will be the first to concede that we are only scratching the surface with the bi-monthly cleanups, because the volume of litter is mind numbing. We work for five hours on the average, and when we have bagged tons of trash, we can still see a long stretch of litter many kilometres ahead. Nonetheless, we always feel fulfilled that we have rid the beaches of some of its man-made waste. And so long as our volunteers are not tired or discouraged, we will keep on cleaning all we can and with the little resources at our disposal. It is our collective resolve to do this, come rain come shine, until the proper culture of beach management is instituted.
Any support from government?
Except for logistics support we get from LAWMA (Lagos State Waste Management Agency), none as yet. Even the relevant ministries of the state government (Environment, Tourism) will not acknowledge or respond to the letters we send to them. Interestingly, all of the five beaches that we have cleaned so far are in Lagos.
When is the next beach cleanup?
August 8th 2015, and it will most likely be a beach in touristy Badagry town (the process of selecting the specific beach is ongoing).