by Mahmoud Fouly
CAIRO, Sept. 18 (Xinhua) -- A group of volunteers took a boat on the Nile River in the Egyptian capital Cairo, equipped with life jackets, rubber gloves and fishing nets with long handles, to pick up floating bottles and other plastic waste in an awareness campaign to mark World Cleanup Day.
Around 60 volunteers joined the Nile cleanup activity launched by VeryNile, an Egyptian environmental initiative devoted to removing garbage and plastic waste from the longest river in the world and raising awareness about the importance of combating plastic pollution.
World Cleanup Day is marked annually on the third Saturday of September, which falls this year on Sept. 17.
"We pick up plastic waste from the Nile and its bank. We learn about cleaning the river and preserving the environment and also how plastic waste can be recycled into something useful," said Mohsen Ahmed, a university student of interior design, noting that he's been volunteering with VeryNile for about three years.
Later in the afternoon, in another area on the riverbank, the VeryNile initiative built a pyramid of compressed plastic bottles as part of the campaign, to show people how big the problem of plastic pollution is.
The pyramid is composed of more than 200,000 plastic bottles collected from the Nile. It is more than five meters high and weighs more than six tons, according to Alban de Menonville, co-founder and managing director of VeryNile.
"VeryNile aims to tackle plastic pollution, to collect plastic waste from the Nile, and most importantly to raise awareness about how everyone should make small steps in his daily life to have less impact on the environment," VeryNile's managing director told Xinhua.
The cleanup campaign comes about two months ahead of Egypt's hosting of the 27th session of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) scheduled for November this year in the Red Sea resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh.
"Regarding the environment, it's a very special year for Egypt," said De Menonville, adding, "We want to show the world that when we have one resource as marvelous as the Nile, we in Egypt care about it and are trying to do our best to preserve it."
After taking part in picking up plastic bottles from the river, Ala El-Khatib, one of the volunteers, said that she teaches her daughters to reduce using plastic bags and separate garbage at home into recyclable and non-recyclable.
"Such activities shed more light on Egypt's environmental efforts, for most foreigners think Egypt is not that advanced in this area. So, these campaigns put us get attention and show how we're very much into sustainability and relevant initiatives," El-Khatib, who works for an international bank in Egypt, said.
VeryNile and its cleanup campaigns are supported by the Egyptian Ministry of Environment. The ministry is supportive of such initiatives as the government can't work alone in raising public awareness and it encourages non-government organizations to assist, said Mona Kamal, an environmental expert and former director of the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency at the Ministry of Environment.
"Civil society organizations and youth initiatives are very influential because they work within their communities and launch awareness campaigns to make people understand the dangers of plastic waste and the importance of its recycling," she said.
"The Nile River is our life. It is the lifeline of Egypt, and it's very important to protect it and preserve the quality of its water," the Egyptian ecologist told Xinhua.