Quirky ‘Kikay’ and the quake that shattered dreams

Preschooler dies in Surigao earthquake that hit hardest on poor

BY DANILO ADORADOR III

DEADLY TREMOR. A bridge near the house of Jenelyn ‘Kikay’ Eballe, 6, collapses during the magnitude earthquake that hit Surigao del Norte on February 10, 2017. (Contributed Photo)
COLORFUL KIKAY. Kikay had a colorful personality who loved dogs and liked to pose for selfies. (Handout Photos)

FOR her March “moving up” ceremony, 6-year old Jenelyn “Kikay” Ebale had only two wishes: a new dress and some coloring stuff for her “class”— she played teacher on the weekends to children from the neighborhood. Her mother, Susanna tolerated the ruckus in their thatched roof home because it gave their youngest child and the only girl of six siblings great joy.

Kikay dreamed of becoming a teacher, and that the first thing she would do when she becomes one is get us a nice house,” said Susanna, 44, flipping through her daughter’s workbooks as tears ran down her cheeks.

She described Kikay as precocious and “kiat” (quirky). She loved animals and had a gift for making people laugh.

Kikay was one of eight casualties in the magnitude 6.7 earthquake that jolted Surigao City at 10:00 p.m. on February 10. The tremor injured more than 200 people, damaged more than 300 buildings and houses, rendered several roads and bridges impassable, and cut power and water for over a week.

[WATCH: Surigao miners first to respond in the aftermath of the magnitude 6.7 earthquake that hit Surigao del Norte] 

VULNERABLE

The Philippines is one of the most vulnerable nations in the world to natural hazards that includes typhoons, floods, landslides, drought and earthquakes, according to a World Bank study.

Worse, poor families like Kikay’s are more exposed to the dangers of natural calamities and are likely to bear the brunt of their effects, according to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).

These risks are heightened by the reality that poor Filipino families mostly live in crowded, unsafe villages that lack urban planning. Commonly called “squatter”, these areas are usually excluded from the government’s regular hazard assessments because they are situated in private lands, said Roger de Dios, director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau in Caraga Region.

Kikay’s family live in one such village, where large branches of trees are left hanging by the roadside.

Angie Chato, the village leader, said the Community Local Environment and Natural Resources Office (CLENRO) did not act on her request to have the towering branches removed.

Kikay was knocked unconscious when one of those tree branches fell and hit Kikay on her head during the violent tremor, said her father, 43-year old Roger Ebale.

‘HORRIFYING’

When she was rushed to a government hospital, Kikay’s parents were shocked and furious that their daughter could not get immediate treatment because local hospitals lacked basic diagnostic equipment.

REMEMBERING KIKAY. Susanna and Roger Ebale recall Kikay’s last moments with the family (Photo by Danilo Adorador III)

“We were told to go to Davao City, which is a good 12-hour ride by land, but when we requested an ambulance to take us there, we were told that there was none available,” said Roger.
Roger said they approached the city’s emergency response unit for an ambulance but was told that one of its only two medical vehicles broke down, and the other was being used to transport other earthquake victims.

“It was the most depressing and horrifying 24 hours of my life. “

“It was the most depressing and horrifying 24 hours of my life. We were in a race to save our daughter, and yet circumstances kept on frustrating us,” he said.

But it was too late.

Kikay had died on the way to a modern government hospital in Davao City where her parents had hoped she could get a lease on life.

Inside the ambulance, Susanna said she held Kikay’s hands all the time and noticed her drawing her last breath at around 4 a.m. It was February 12, two days since they took her to the hospital.

“I think she would have made it if she received immediate medical attention. She had been suffering for two days,” she pointed out.

A PAUPER’S FUNERAL

While in Davao Kikay’s family missed financial assistance opportunities from the government.

When President Rodrigo Duterte visited the city two days after the February 10 earthquake to hand out cash to the victims and their families, the Ebales missed that. They were in Davao City mourning the loss of their daughter.

When they sought assistance from the City Social Welfare Office to bury their dead, Kikay’s parents were turned away because the agency was still validating the identities of all earthquake victims. They felt frustrated because it had been almost a week after the tremor had hit.

[RELATED VIDEO: Earthquake survivors forced to live in unsafe homes]

https://youtu.be/LxcsBSKNcLs

Wilma Destajo, head of City Social Welfare Office, admitted the agency lacked manpower to track and identify disaster victims immediately.

She said victims with verified claims can receive P5,000 in burial assistance.

“No proper data, no cash assistance can be handed out to anyone. That’s how government works,” Destajo said.

But the Ebales can’t wait no longer. They would have to bury their dead.

With their last centavo spent, it was a modest funeral procession to the cemetery for Kikay.

BURYING KIKAY. With no money to spend for a funeral car, a tricycle carries Kikay’s coffin to her final resting place. (Handout Photo)

Her father, who used his carpentry skill to make a small coffin for her, borrowed a tricycle to send his daughter to her final resting place.

She was buried on a gloomy Saturday morning, eight days after the tremor that would forever change the life of the Ebales family.

“Tragedies like this are hard when you are poor. It’s harder when you can’t even give your youngest child and only daughter a decent burial,” Kikay’s mother cried.

Quirky ‘Kikay’ and the quake that shattered dreams

Solar energy to rescue drought-stricken Sri Lanka

Solar energy to rescue drought-stricken Sri Lanka

Solar energy to increase the production, reduce the cost and burden on the fuel imports- power ministry

By Ranga Sirilal

Minister of power and renewable energy Ranjith Siyambalapitiya at the Solar Energy Park in Hambantota. Photo courtesy: Minister of power and renewable energy.

Green power including rooftop solar panels are Sri Lanka’s answer to its energy shortages.

Sri Lanka exempt solar power equipments from all taxes and to grant maximum of 350,000 rupees ($2,295) loan under a concessionary interest for all the electricity customers.

The move comes as the Indian ocean island nation launched a campaign to promote electricity generated trough solar panels including rooftop solar panels to face the looming energy crisis due to prolong drought and to reduce its reliance on fossil fuel imports.

“The people ask us to give them concessionary loans we are going to give concessionary loan maximum of 350,000 rupees ($2,295) and the government is to bear the 50 percent of the interest,” Ajith P. Perera, Deputy Minister of Power and Renewable Energy told Ateneo De Manila university xx after the island nations cabinet passed the proposal on Tuesday, March 21.

 

Perera also said the government has removed the taxes on solar panels and solar inverters in a bid to promote the solar power generation while government has followed an open and transparent tender procedure to build 60 of 1 Mw solar power plants around the country.

“Government is not investing a cent on this program but CEB will buy the electricity (generated) at the rate of 22 rupees per unit to 18.37 rupees a unit.” Perear said adding that the “Solar wind as well as other renewable energy source s will give us energy independence, foreign currency savings and better environment.”

Ministry of power and renewable energy is also promoting solar systems to generate electricity to light the street lights, to supply electricity to rural areas where the national grid is not available, solar powered drip irrigation and solar powered electric fences to protect people from the while elephants in rural villages where the electricity is not available.

“We have decided to provide solar energy systems to one million houses as a solution to power problem. This project will stop foreign exchange flowing out of the country,” Minister of power and renewable energy Ranjith Siyambalapitiya said.

The ministry spokesman said by popularising the low cost solar powered drip irrigation technology in dry zone and Intermediate zones, where the water is scares, will improve the efficiency and sustainable management of water, soil and plant nutrients and the project aims to increase farm productivity, raise farms’ income and improve the lives of rural farmer families living in the dry zones of Sri Lanka.

The local government authorities were also promoting the solar power systems to grenade electricity for their farm lands.

Officials of the North Western province, launching a program to provide solar power systems to generate electricity for farmlands in the area. Picture courtesy http://www.lankadeepa.lk

 

DROUGHT TO WORSEN THE CRISIS

Sri Lanka’s worst drought since the early 1970s has destroyed crops and reduced electricity generation at hydro electrick plants. (Source: Daily Mirror)

Sri Lanka is suffering its worst drought in over 40 years. The lack of rain has reducing the hydro’s share of Sri Lanka’s power mix to below 13 percent by March 14 from an annual average of about 35 percent. Forcing the non-oil producing nation to import larger quantities of fuel to generate thermal powered electricity as the hydro power generation has reduced due to the drought worsening the already bloated balance of payment of the country.

As a result Sri Lanka’s $82 billion economy faces a balance of payment crisis mainly because of increased oil imports for electricity generation and could shoot up the prices of the imported goods amid the country has to import more commodities worsening the situation as the drought destroyed the crop.

Fuel imports in January jumped to double typical monthly levels to plug an energy shortfall

 

Electricity Generated on : February 22, 2017

Peak Power Demand 2339.1 MW

Reservoir Storage 402.1 GWh

Source: http://www.ceb.lk

 

The graphs shows the Sri Lankas energy mix as of

Dr. B.M Suren Batagoda, the secretary to the ministry of power and renewable energy said that around 500 mw, one fourth of the peak demand, is available as backup power in the country and the government will purchase electricity from those private institutions who owns backup power plants as a short term measure.

Batagoda also said that the government has taken measures to reduce the usage of air-conditioners in the state institutions, reduce the timeframe of street lights by two hours, one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening and introduce 10 million low-cost LED lights as a measure to reduce the demand.

BATTLE FOR SOLAR ENERGY

The government’s long term electricity generation plan, Batagoda said is the generation of 1000 mw of solar roof-top power from 1 million households in 10 years.

Roof-top solar panels set up at an apartment complex by the JLanka Technologies in capital Colombo generate enough power to run the building. (Source: JK Lanka)

Batagoda said the government is looking at 300 Mw solar power to be added to the national grid in next 5 years including 200Mw rooftop solar units from about 200,000 households.

 

It is doing this through a new community-based power generation project ‘Soorya Bala Sangramaya‘ or Battle for Solar Energy. The project promotes small solar power plants on the rooftops of households, commercial establishments and industries to generate and use electricity on their premises. They have the option to sell the excess electricity to the national grid or bank it by charging batteries for later use.

“It has reduced my electricity cost and its very convenient. Not only it saves my electricity cost it also saves my fuel cost as I’m using an electric car and is charging at home,” Yohan De Croos said.

A 10-megawatt solar power plant set up by the Hayleys Group PLC and Windforce Pvt Ltd in Welikande in the Polonnaruwa District in Sri Lanka’s north-central province generates enough electricity to power a village (Source: company statement)

Solar energy to rescue drought-stricken Sri Lanka

DISABLED PEOPLE URGE GOVERNMENT TO IMPROVE FACILITIES

Crumbling sidewalks, lack of ramps and building accessibility disadvantage people with disabilities

By Farabi Ferdiansyah

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Taswid and Rohayati sell crackers at the exit gate at East Tebet Traditional Market, South Jakarta. (Photo by: Farabi Ferdiansyah)

Taswid, 48 and his wife Rohayati, 42 years old are a blind crackers seller. Every day, they are sitting on a bench at the exit gate at the East Tebet Traditional Market from 7 AM to 11 AM. They are waiting for people who want to buy their crackers.

“Yang kerupuk, kerupuk (crackers)!” shout Rohayati to attract people attention.

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Taswid and Rohayati blind crackers seller walk around Tebet and Kebon Baru Street. (Photo by: Farabi Ferdiansyah)

The trip to a market is dangerous. They navigate the streets around Tebet and Kebon Baru, South Jakarta that has no specific signs for impaired person. They have to walk tens of kilometers on a roadside, cross many intersections and railway tracks, without using overpass.  They are risking their life to earn about Rp 100.000 (7$) per day.

He has faced bad experiences as blind cracker seller because of lack of infrastructure for the impaired person.

“I often get hit by a vehicle. Moreover, I fell into a deep hole over 2 meters high,” said who have 2 children.

Taswid and the others disabled people do not have a choice to get a better job. They have to survive even though the infrastructure is not friendly for disabled people.

More Isolated

People with disabilities are less likely to be employed. According to Census 2010, having a mild disability gives a person only a 64.9 percent chance of being employed compared with a nondisabled person. For people with more serious disabilities, that percentage drops significantly to barely more than 10 percent. Demography of Disabled People. They are more isolated than able-bodied people because of the difficulties that they face to get public accesses.

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Every day Taswid and Rohayati cross intersection and railways in Tebet and Kebon Baru Streets to sells crackers. (Photo by: Farabi Ferdiansyah)

Gufron Sakaril, a chairman of The Indonesia Disabled People Association (PPDI) said that the organization has been lobbying the government to improve the facilities in order to provide better access for people with disabilities.

“The infrastructure is a part of the important factors why disabled people not develop. Many of them find difficulty to get access to school or get a job due to the inadequate infrastructure for disabled people,” said Sakaril.

KAta data

Data from the Central Statistic Agency of DKI Jakarta there are 6.003 disabled people in 2015. South Jakarta is the highest city with 2.290 disabled people. Source: Katadata 

GOVERNMENT INACTION

Foto 2

The infrastructure in a metropolitan city in Jakarta does not support disabled people. Disabled people must navigate uneven, broken sidewalks, holes, building without ramps, and lack maintenance. (Photos by: Farabi Ferdiansyah)

Lana Winayati, the advisor of Minister of Public Works and Public Housing admits many infrastructures in Indonesia aren’t disability friendly.

“We need more budged and time to socialize the stakeholders and the regional government as a supervisor in the region to provide the infrastructure that accessible for disabled people,” said Lana.

The urban planning expert from Trisakti University, Nirwono Yoga said the percentage of disability-friendly infrastructure is very low because there are no sanction and control from the government.

“The participation of people with disability in urban planning is not optimum, starting from planning, construction and the arrangement of the city,” he added.

DISABLED PEOPLE URGE GOVERNMENT TO IMPROVE FACILITIES

95 Filipino children die every day from malnutrition

By Che de los Reyes

The number of malnourished children is increasing because of poverty, neglect, and stigma. A new government health program engages community to overcome malnutrition.

IMG_1535
A mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) tape detects if a child is malnourished. Green = well-nourished Yellow = moderate acute malnutrition Red = severe acute malnutrition and the child needs immediate treatment. Photo by Che de los Reyes

The light of the flickering candle illuminates the little boy’s face as he nibbles on a piece of bread. It is lunchtime.

The boy of nearly two years and his two school aged brothers are eating their first and only meal of the day. The older boy reaches for another piece of bread, but the bag is already empty.

The boys’ mother had a nervous breakdown last month and is in a mental institution. Their father Roger, 41, can’t drive his pedicab when no one will take care of the youngest, Emmanuel.

Kapag hindi ako nakakapagtrabaho katulad ngayon, tinatabihan ko na lang sila ng tinapay. Mamaya, isasama ko sila, iikot na naman kami, hahanap ng mauutangan (When I’m not able to work, like today, I set aside bread for them. Later, I’ll bring them with me, we’ll go around the neighborhood and find someone who can lend us cash),” he says. Roger’s real name is concealed in this story to protect the identities of his minor children.

Roger is feeling the pressure to provide for his family. This morning, Emmanuel was diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition. The boy needs immediate treatment or he will die.

Save the Children estimates that 95 children in the Philippines die each day from causes related to malnutrition.

An invisible emergency

Malnutrition, especially acute malnutrition, is an invisible emergency.

“Most of the time, these children are neglected, especially the under-five year olds,” Dr. Celna Mae Tejare of humanitarian group Action Against Hunger says.

This is rooted, she says, in traditional practices where the families with limited food give priority to feeding those with jobs.

IMG_1555
Roger lights up a candle to illuminate the room even during midday. They have been without electricity for several years. Photo by Che de los Reyes

“We tend to neglect that those under five need it more,” she adds.

Such neglect leads to chronic malnutrition. Nearly three out of every 10 Filipino children below two years old are suffering from chronic malnutrition. This is the worst rate in 10 years according to 2015 data from the Food and Nutrition Research Institute.

If not addressed, chronically malnourished children become stunted, or short for their age. This affects a child’s ability to learn, and by age five, becomes irreversible.

Children with chronic malnutrition quickly slip to acute malnutrition when they get sick.

So when Emmanuel caught pneumonia a couple of months ago, his weight quickly dropped. He now weighs just 8.1 kilos, which is very low for his height of 79.9 cm and for his age of nearly two years.

A child with severe acute malnutrition is nine times more likely to die than a well-nourished child.

In the Philippines, 95 children die every day from malnutrition.

“It is a silent emergency that can blow up anytime during an emergency,” Dr. Tejare says.

Poverty cause of hunger

UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver’s mission to the Philippines in February 2015 revealed that “access to sufficient and nutritious food is limited by poverty and income levels.”

This is despite the fact that Philippine economy has risen to middle income level, according to the World Bank.

“We are leaving those in the margins. Our progress does not reach the communities that really need it more,” Dr. Tejare says (Listen to podcast: A doctor of the people).

In Roger’s barangay of more than 5,000 in the middle of Manila for instance, many live a hand-to-mouth existence. Roger and his boys live in a room the size of closet in a house with 21 other people from four different households.

As a ‘pedicab,’ driver (a kind of rickshaw), on a good day he takes home P240 (roughly equivalent to US$5) after 12 hours of pedaling up and down Quirino highway—barely enough to feed his family a nutritious meal.

 First 1,000 days

“How do you attack the problem on the household level, at the community level, and at the national level? Immediately, at the household level, we need to bring Emmanuel to a health care facility that has the capability to treat him,” Kristine Calleja, program manager of Gem’s Heart Foundation, says.

“There’s still a window of opportunity before he reaches two years of age,” she adds.

Gem’s Heart is part of the Philippine Coalition of Advocates for Nutrition Security (PhilCan), a network of organizations that is  pushing for the “First 1,000 Days” bill. It seeks to address malnutrition from the time the child is in the womb up until the child turns two. It proposes to give more resources to the National Nutrition Council and implement other existing nutrition laws more strongly such as the Milk Code and Food Fortification Laws.

Several versions of the bill are pending in both Houses of Congress.

The faces of malnutrition

Battling stigma in communities

One of the biggest barriers is the stigma of having a malnourished child.

“It implies that you have been very negligent as a parent,” Dr. Tejare says.

Because of this, many parents would rather not seek medical treatment for their children because they feel they will be blamed for the situation,” she says.

Roger is one of those parents. Upon hearing Emmanuel’s diagnosis, Roger walked out of the barangay hall, sons in tow, without waiting for the older one’s turn at the weighing scale.

Malakas pong kumain ito. Wala itong problema. (He eats a lot. He does not have any problem),” Roger says of Emmanuel’s brother.

This mindset, Dr. Tejare says, has to change.

The first step is to avoid calling them ‘malnourished children’ because the branding stays with them all their lives.

“We’d rather call them ‘kulang sa timbang‘ (underweight) because it’s a bit positive, meaning that if you get to improve the weight, we could bring back these children into good health.”

One such solution is to give children like Emmanuel ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF), more commonly known as Plumpy’Nut. This is what humanitarian aid organizations distribute in Africa and areas where many children are suffering from malnutrition.

IMG_1358
Ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF), more commonly known as Plumpy’Nut, is not only for emergency situations. The government will distribute 50,000 boxes of them to treat children with severe acute malnutrition, initially in 17 provinces this year. Photo by Che de los Reyes  

The Department of Health (DOH) will begin distributing 50,000 boxes of RUTF, worth P145 million, in March, Dr. Anthony Calibo, head of the agency’s Family Health Office, says.

The recipients are 38,289 children with severe acute malnutrition from six months and before they turn five. The DOH targets 17 provinces this year, and another 21 provinces next year.

These provinces have the highest rates of acute malnutrition, are vulnerable to natural calamities and disasters, and have high rates of poverty, Dr. Calibo says.

This is all part of a program called Philippine Integrated Management of Severe Acute Malnutrition, which relies on strong community involvement. For children with less severe malnutrition, the solution is a feeding program to supplement their food intake at home (watch related video: Feeding 700 students every day).

“We encourage parents, even those neighbors who see these cases, to help these families seek consultation because there is treatment. There is hope,” Dr. Tejare says.

Roger is thankful that Gem’s Heart Foundation is helping him seek treatment for Emmanuel.

Because right now, he has no other option but wait for his wife to get well, come home, and take care of the kids. Only then could he get back on his pedicab and bring food on the table.


Signs and treatment of malnutrition

Parents of children whose weight and height have not yet been assessed by a health care provider should look out for the following:

Lack of appetite

– Health care providers will administer an appetite test, where they give a child RUTF and count the number of mouthfuls that the child takes within an hour.

Treatment:

– A child that has good appetite will be given RUTF as an outpatient treatment

– A child with no appetite warrants in-patient care

Lack of appetite plus any sickness such as diarrhea

The child should be treated in a health facility, such as those for Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition in 17 priority provinces.

Treatment:

-The child will be given therapeutic milk that is appropriate to the phase of treatment.

For more information about malnutrition, contact PhilCan at (+632) 3747618 local 213 or visit facebook.com/philcan

For more information about treating malnutrition, visit Action Against Hunger’s website at actionagainsthunger.org or contact the Department of Health’s Family Health Office at (+632) 651-7800

95 Filipino children die every day from malnutrition

A solar plant changes an island

By Faisal Mahmud

A solar mini grid established under a public-private joint initiative transformed the lives of a remote river island in Bangladesh 

A year ago Paratoli Island in Raipura Upazila of Narshingdi district in Bangladesh was almost entirely in darkness.

People walked to get from one place to another, and life was at a standstill as this nine square kilometres remote river island (called Char in Bangladesh) had no electricity.

Today it’s a different place.

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The remote river island of Paratoli. Photo: Faisal Mahmud

It has three engine rickshaws now (popularly known as easy bikes).

“People can now travel quickly and comfortably. It costs me around Tk 250 to charge batteries of the three vehicles and I make around Tk 500 daily,” owner Nazir Hossain said.

Tea stall owner Siraj Mia, has installed a refrigerator in the past two months. “I now have ice cream in my shop and children can buy it. This was unthinkable a few months ago,” he said.

Paratoli has witnessed this magical transformation because of the introduction of a 141kb (kilobyte) solar grid electricity system by Shouro Bangla Ltd in April 2016.

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The solar mini grid in Paratoli   Photo: Faisal Mahmud

“Years ago, Paratoli was in dark except few households that used expensive solar panels on the rooftops at a cost of over Tk 40,000. The power from those panels did not last longer than three hours. Now they have uninterrupted supply,” the director of Shouro Bangla Ltd, Sabbir Choudhury said.

How a solar mini grid changes an island (Narrated Audio-Video slideshow)

How the power supply works?

A nine kilometre long transmission line runs throughout Paratoli. The solar grid supplies uninterrupted electricity to 724 households and 124 small-scale industries.

The mini grid had already provided connections to 613 families, lighting up the lives of nearly 5,000 people on the island. The solar panels are spread across 0.9 acres land.

“There is nothing manual as state-of-the art technology has been used,” Sabbir observed.
The sun on solar panels generates DC (Direct Current) electricity which is fed into a solar inverter. It converts it into 220V and 50Hz AC electricity.

 

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How the plant works  Graphics: Shoura Bangla Ltd

During day, electricity is used to power appliances in homes. Simultaneously, it is stored in a series of high-capacity batteries that supply uninterrupted power at night.

Each household or connection has a smart meter and smart card.

“Suppose one customer needs 10 units for a month; he comes to the plant and punches it into the machine and input 10 units against the card. The customer then goes back to the house and punches the card in his house meter. We update in the system against his ID and direct 10 units of electricity against that connection,” said Sabbir.

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The smart system in place for the customers  Graphics: Faisal Mahmud

Each unit of electricity cost Tk 30. “The price is high but if you consider the usage per unit, then the cost isn’t that much because here, one unit lasts three times the time in urban areas as the load is very low,” he said.

People use electricity for lights, fans, charging mobiles and sometimes freezing. Sabbir said the average electricity bill of households was around Tk 700 to 800 per month.

The funding for the project

The solar mini grid project in Paratoli cost $800,000. The World Bank provided half the funding and Shouro Bangla Ltd borrowed the rest through the Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL), a state-owned non-bank financial institution under soft loan for solar-powered projects.

CEO and Executive Director of IDCOL Mahmud Malik said that at present there are 18 Solar Mini-Grid Projects, among which 7 are operational. He said that solar mini grid is a better option for the people in off-grid areas as it provides with continuous electricity.

“The government has plans to establish 50 such plants by 2018 and we are working to fulfill its plans.”

 

A solar plant changes an island

Marine Debris Litters Taiwan’s San Po Beach

Plastic bags, plastic bottles and straws, cigarette butts and other garbage are polluting the coastlines and the ocean of Taiwan.

By Lizane Louw

Large amounts of marine debris are washing up on the beaches. Much of it from coastal garbage dumps and mainland China.

Merine Debris

25/ 02/ 2017. Shoes, cigarette butts, and glass bottles are some of the thousands of pieces of marine debris that can be found on San Po Beach, Northern Taiwan, despite regular clean ups by TEIA, an Environmental NGO in Taiwan. Photo Lizane Louw

The Taiwan Environmental Information Association, TEIA, has collected data on marine waste since 2013 as part of its beach clean ups. Last year they monitored 22 coastal areas including Xinbei City, San Po Beach, Taichung West Point, and Tainan Siok.

About 850 volunteers removed 3,076.6 kg of marine garbage, the weight of a small SUV truck.

MarineDebris02

25/ 02/ 2017. A volunteer putting on gloves that are provided by TEIA for the beach cleanup and monitoring action at San Po Beach, Northern Taiwan. Photo Lizane Louw

“A lot of plastic bags, handbags, and wrappers for candy and cookies was found today, but the most garbage we found today was cigarette butts,” said Chao Jui, at the TEIA, San Po Heroes Quest. Chao has been working on the beach cleaning projects, at San Po Beach for two years.

“The issue here is the littering as source of marine debris, not littering as the man on the street would think, people throwing stuff away, the sources are wide spread, some stuff left behind by people coming to the beach, but a lot is also coming from the oceans,” said Qiao Ling, project organizer for TEIA.

“There are a lot of landfills along the coastline, nobody goes there, and nobody sees the garbage being dumped and being covered up,” says Qiao. “They are weathered away and the rubbish then goes into the sea.”

Involving volunteers in beach actions leads to awareness about the problems of marine debris. “The volunteers see for themselves that a lot of rubbish comes from our daily lives and fishing activities, and also from overseas,” Qiao said. Fishing and fishing activities are responsible for 18% of marine debris found on San Po Beach in Northern Taiwan.

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Info graphic: Lizane Louw

   TEIA compiles the data in an annual report.

Protecting the waters: laws and education

Qiao Ling says  TEIA presents beach data to government and challenges authorities to find solutions to garbage management.

In an effort to deal with the problem, the EPD (Environmental Protection Department) released a second edition of a draft on December 8, 2016. It proposes to restrict the manufacture, import and sale of cosmetics and personal cleaning products containing plastic particles from January 1, 2018, and prohibits the sale (including gifts) from July 1, 2018.

TEIA can’t wait for government action. “Rubbish comes from everywhere, we need a multiple fold strategy,” say Qiao.

Chao Jui says as more people are educated through activities such as beach cleanups; they will change their behavior. “They will think what to do in their normal daily lives,” she said.

“Take away food culture is so big in Taiwan. If you go to a breakfast shop you get a box, you get chopsticks, you get a wrapper and all this they put in a plastic bag. You buy a drink and that goes with a straw and the straw is also in a wrapper. Think how many pieces of garbage that is, ” asks Qiao.

MarineDebrisp03

25/ 02/ 2017. The food and beverage industry, especially the night markets and breakfast shops are responsible for 58% of the marine debris on San Po Beach. Photo Lizane Louw

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Info graphic: Lizane Louw

The data chart from the report of 2016 shows that the food and beverage industries are responsible for creating the most marine debris and trash.

TEIA is encouraging people to set daily targets for themselves to prevent marine debris and the problem with plastics. They encourage people to bring their own cloth bag when they go shopping. They also suggest people take stainless steel cutlery, water bottles, and their own containers when they buy take out meals.

Qiao Ling is confident. “All this can change if each person does a little bit. Can you go a day without creating rubbish and using disposables?”.

VOXPOP OCEAN

Marine Debris Litters Taiwan’s San Po Beach