A dead swan lies at the shore of Al Qudra lake in Dubai. Image Credit: Mohammad Abdul Gaffar

Dubai: Dubai’s Al Qudra Lake is said to be home to as many as 175 species of birds, including some endangered and threatened ones, as stated by a report issued by the Dubai Municipality in October, 2016. Unfortunately, community reporters have time and again raised concerns about people littering at the popular campsite, which is polluting the lake and causing harm to the various birds around.

Mohammad Abdul Gaffar is one of them. He visited the location a few days ago, along with his family, and came across a horrifying sight. As he approached the water, he spotted a dead swan lying at the shore, surrounded by trash left behind by campers.

He told Gulf News: “It was a cool evening and so we decided to go for a picnic. But, I was shocked to see the dead bird. I looked around to see if a security personnel could come collect the swan, but there was no one around. I was surprised to see that many people did not even care about the animal.”

What started off as a fun evening for Gaffar’s family, with the children happy to see the variety of bird species, quickly turned into a shocking affair. As he walked around, he spotted empty plastic bottles, bags and other waste items accumulating in and around the lake.

“Seeing this pathetic scene, we lost the mood for a picnic and left the place soon as we couldn’t do anything to save or protect the birds,” he said.

There are several camping spots present in the area around the lake, and with the pleasant weather conditions in the winter months, Al Qudra lake becomes a popular destination for residents and tourists alike. However, Gaffar’s main concern was that though there is a fine of Dh500 on littering or dumping waste anywhere in the UAE, there was no one present at the site to stop people from littering. He spotted people eating and drinking around the lake and them dumping the trash into the water, without thinking twice about the birds and marine life.

“Many children were throwing food at the ducks and swans to attract them to come closer,” he said.

Nassil Mohammad, a photography enthusiast, visits different locations around the UAE to capture pictures of birds and Al Qudra lake is one of his favourite spots. He has also witnessed people’s nonchalant behaviour when it comes to their children throwing things into the water. In fact, he has even spotted a few undisciplined ones throwing stones at the birds, while the parents continued to enjoy their outing and didn’t say a word.

He said: “People don’t seem to be bothered about animals, birds or Nature. I am afraid that if people continue like this, the lake will be closed soon.”

On his last visit, he spotted a heron trying to grab something from the water. When he looked closely, it had found a plastic bag floating in the lake and was trying to consume it. On discussing this with his friends, he realised that he wasn’t the only person who had come across such a sight.

On a recent trip to the lake, another community reporter, Vismaya Sanilkumar, a student based in Sharjah, came across a lot of plastic waste, including spoons and plates, floating in the water. Additionally, a lot of people were barbecuing around the lake and when they were done, they didn’t throw the plates and other items in the trash can, which was placed nearby.

Sanilkumar said: “We talk about the environment as such an important aspect of our lives and this is what we are doing to our lakes. We even spotted two young girls throwing stones at the birds. When we stopped them, they moved away to another spot and continued to do the same. Their parents were nowhere in sight and it seemed like they didn’t care at all.”

According to a report published by the National Geographic, there is so much plastic trash in the world’s oceans that 90 per cent of seabirds eat it now. Sharp-edged plastic kills birds by punching holes in their internal organs, while some eat so much plastic that there is no room left in their gut for food.

This situation is expected to get worse. By 2050, a number of researchers expect the world’s oceans to contain more plastic than fish, as stated in a CNN report published in December, 2016. But, why do birds mistake plastic for food in the first place?

A study conducted by the US-based journal Science Advances stated that the plastic found in the ocean, sea or lakes tends to accumulate algae and other organic matter on its surface. It then emits a chemical compound that has a distinctive smell, which signals to some seabirds that it’s dinnertime.

What do you think can be done to change people’s behaviour when it comes to littering in public spaces? Tell us at readers@gulfnews.com