Desert Dumping Grounds

Muslim Matters

Desert Dumping Grounds

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

“As a matter of fact, an ordinary desert supports a much greater variety of plants than does either a forest or a prairie.”  ~Ellsworth Huntington

desrtThe vast expanse of the desert is full of life that includes birds, camels, small animals and flora. While the arid desert region is unforgiving in the blistering summers, it is rather enjoyable during the cool winter months. Desert camping is one of the great pastimes for families in the Middle East. The norm for most families is to pitch several large tents on a patch of desert and live there exclusively during the short winter. The fresh desert air is believed to be excellent for health and most especially the upper respiratory system.

The downside of desert camping is that many people do not leave it as they found it. Instead, they leave their trash, broken electronics and even old unwanted tires lingering in the desert. The consequences can be deadly for animals who attempt to feed on things like plastic or Styrofoam and end up choking to death. It’s not uncommon to find dead camels in the desert with large pieces of plastic garbage bags stuck in their throats. Most countries turn a blind eye to litter and do not enforce the meager laws already on the books. As a result, many deserts look more like garbage dumps than the natural habitats they are supposed to be.

The municipality of Dubai, located in the United Arab Emirates, has re-launched an initiative to meet the problem with desert dumping head on. For the second year in a row, Dubai’s Waste Management Department will hold a 10 day long “Desert Clean-up” campaign. Hundreds of volunteers are expected including students and organized groups.

According to the Director of the Waste Management Department, Abdul Majeed Saifaie, the aim of the clean up is “…to take this message to everyone that when they enjoy or use a place, they should leave it clean for others to be able to use it too. Residents and thousands of tourists like to visit the desert, but leaving it unclean is not only an environmental hazard, it can also be dangerous to the life of animals.”

According to statistics acquired from last year’s campaign, an estimated 266 tons of garbage was recovered and disposed of properly. This year, the campaign hopes to gather even more waste while also increasing the public’s awareness of the importance of keeping the desert clean with a media initiative. 


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