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The Turtles of Tripoli

by Moutaz Ali


In Libya, an environmental civil-society organisation has recently published an encyclopaedia and wants all households to pay attention to it. The book contains information on ways to protect the environment – including waste-sorting for example. In Libya, this is an innovative concept.

“The book is part of a project,” says Najwa Wheba. Her group also runs workshops with teachers, encouraging them to spread the information in schools. She is a co-founder of the civil-society organisation Oxygen Association for Environment Protection.

“The book consists of three chapters. The first focuses on a number of animals and plants and their relevance in the ecological balance,” Wheba explains. “The second chapter discusses urban garbage problems and explains why waste sorting must start at the household level. The third one offers handicraft ideas inspired by nature.”

“Turtles of Tripoli” is the title of efforts that focus on the damage that plastic causes. “Sea turtles die because of plastic bags which look like jellyfish, so they feed on them,” says Thurya Al-Sedig, the chairwoman of Oxygen.

Hanan Banooga belongs to the teachers’ group. They now want to teach students how to handle garbage at home. “We have formed a team of students from different classes that we call ‘police of environment’.” The team is taught to use three large bags to sort waste in schools and on the school grounds. One is for plastic, one for paper and one for biodegradable waste.

Maher Alshahry, a local environmentalist, says the project is very important even though it has little resources and, so far, does not have much support. “It is a promising start,” he maintains, “and it inspires hope.” He points out that government authorities tend to stay silent on environmental issues, and many are probably unaware of what needs to be done. A clean environment thus depends on civil-society action. Oxygen is implementing its project in coordination with the Tripoli Municipal Council, sponsored by VNG International, a Dutch association which is working on behalf of the EU.

Moutaz Ali is a journalist and lives in Tripoli, Libya.
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Oxygen Association for Environment Protection:

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