Armed with only the arm and dozens of bags trash, Mohamed Osama Houij advance on the beach of Nabeul in north of tunisia, determined to make his challenge: to travel 300 kilometers on foot in the heat and clean 30 beaches on its way. This young engineer in sanitary engineering started beginning of July with his backpack and his guitar and a journey of two months to raise awareness of authorities and leisure travelers to the importance of not making the sea a garbage can.
Hat covering his lean face craggy and brodequins feet, the young man of 27 years left of Mahdia (eastern). He will end his journey on the beach of Soliman, at 40 km from Tunis, the capital, after have cleaned the crowded beaches like those of Dar Chaabane in Nabeul but also small coves secret. “I think with the momentum of a citizen, and I chose to act from the outside and to sensitize people to the problem of pollution of our beaches”, he explains to AFP. Citizens can follow his action on the page Facebook of the project, “300 Kilometers”, which brings together more than 10,000 internet users.
Mr. Houij refused to accept any political manipulation: “No party is welcome under the emblem of 300 kilometers, ( … ) it is a citizen’s initiative and free will remain so forever.”
I know that I am only a drop of water in the ocean
Dreamer, the man is also realistic: “The action of 300 miles is not really that clean because I know that I am only a drop of water in the ocean. But I want to raise awareness to this problem. I want that they start to say: +Wait! This is not normal, all these bottles, all these caps, all these plastic bags!”. In a report published in June, the world wide Fund for nature (WWF) estimated that “the Mediterranean sea is transformed into a dangerous trap of plastic, with record levels of pollution that endanger marine species and human health.”
After the revolution in 2011, the problem of the proliferation of waste is compounded by Tunisia, in the big cities as well as inside the country or on the beaches. Among the causes, the absence during the seven years of local elected officials: the town halls were managed until may 2018 by “special delegations,” named after the fall of the Ben Ali regime, and the management of which was often faulty.
But there is also a problem of unreliability and lack of environmental awareness among the citizens, had explained the minister of the Environment Riadh Moukher, at the launch of a police environmental mid-2017. In 2017, Mohamed Osama Houij had already launched a citizen action similar, “Zabaltouna” (we invade garbage) to denounce the pollution of the streets.
On the first track that he has cleaned, it is thought to have picked up about 100 pounds of waste. Over the days, he stopped to weigh the garbage in view of the quantities a “huge” recovered. After 150 km of walking and a couple of beaches to its credit, “we can talk about tons of garbage,” according to him. “The more you clean, the more there is garbage, it does not end! This is amazing!” enrage-t-it.
A garbage collector
Marked by the dead bodies of turtles he found thirty or more – and the beaches littered with plastic bottles and diapers, Mohamed Osama lists “all forms of pollution that we are subject to the sea”. “I have seen the wide range of pollution that begins with the domestic pollution of the people who come to the beach passing by the industrial pollution” of private and public companies, he says. “The authorities do not take as it should the problem of pollution in Tunisia, there is no really good will!”, take it-t-it.
On the contrary, some guards private monitoring the beaches to prevent it to pass and require the search — the memory of an assailant arrived with a backpack and who had killed 38 on a beach in Sousse in 2015 is still alive. This defender of nature to the athletic appearance is also angry at the reactions of some of the summer visitors, who do not hesitate to ask him to pick up their trash, taking their “zabel” (garbage man in the dialect is tunisian).
Some nights, Mohamed Osama sees himself, however, provide the cover and the comfort of a bed. The rest of the time, he sleeps at the beautiful star, after being relaxed while playing the guitar. The reactions are “from one extreme to the other,” he explains. “There are people who are very active, that encourage you and help you clean. Other people kill unfortunately you all want to work for this cause”, he says.
“Every day is enough his sentence, but the will is there”, he says. “There is no reason for me to stop”.
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