Anything the world does, hah! We can better it, even if it is a shameful record. The mountainous kingdom of Nepal was recently in the news for bringing 11 tonnes of trash, some of it over a decade old, from the Everest base camp and the paths to the summit – plus four dead mountaineers who perished trying to conquer Mount Everest and whose bodies were revealed by summer snow melt.
While our Bahrain clean-up does not turn up such gruesome finds, our sunny island nation dumps a staggering amount of garbage in public spaces such as beaches and even in the environs of heritage sites.
In April, the NGO CleanUp Bahrain reported that its volunteers had collected a staggering 60 tonnes of trash from our sun-kissed beaches over a three-year period, where the thoughtless public had discarded plastic waste, carpets, clothes, food and even used underwear, diapers, toilet seats and bidets.
The trouble is we are all too comfortable with applauding these volunteers and continue to ensure that they have to toil without ceasing because of our filthy habits. Just this month, volunteers cleaned up a sandbar off the Hamala coastline which is popular with partygoers and picked up 45 bags of after-party trash. And sadly, I’m sure if the volunteers go back in a couple of months, they will find as much new trash to clear.
Since we can’t seem to learn or co-operate, it is natural that the government should impose strict fines of up to BD300 for littering, improperly disposing of household rubbish and urinating or spitting in the street.
The wide-ranging law also covers vehicles that are abandoned, put up for sale or for scrap at unlicensed spaces and using the street to hose down cars.
However, hidden in the discussion leading to this well-intentioned law was a poisonous kernel of prejudice because one legislator took this opportunity to announce that expatriates were mainly responsible for this uncleanliness due to unclean acts “imported from their home countries” which made him “want to vomit”. He even went on to suggest that “sponsors and employers should enforce cleanliness rules in work contracts”.
He seems to have overlooked the fact that many expatriates and even foreign companies volunteer alongside Bahrainis to clean up our public spaces. Plus, has he toured some of the so-called labour camps where hapless workers live in barely inhabitable conditions with inadequate bathrooms, insanitary surroundings and unsafe and rickety rooms? Who does he think is responsible for that?
A soiled attitude and litter of the mind is as dirty as plastic waste and garbage on our beaches. As a country with a proud heritage of inclusiveness and harmony, and with a unique demographic make-up that sees expats working at every level alongside Bahrainis for the country’s progress, it is surprising that MPs are allowed to go on official record with this kind of bigotry.
Shouldn’t such statements be called out and expunged from records and the people uttering them fined for the same?
If every proposal in parliament were to become a platform for insulting expatriates, it is a serious human rights violation and we would do well to take action and maintain the same high standards of treatment in public discourse about all communities as we do through Bahrain’s fair and clear laws.