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Young eco-warrior Joseph Manoj Chittilappilly, Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Young environmentalists honoured at the first-ever virtual awarding by Emirates Environmental Group (EEG) on Monday have called on UAE residents to continue protecting the environment while combating the coronavirus pandemic.

Ten-year old Indian student, Nia Tony, first place winner in the individual category for paper collection, said: “While we are fighting the pandemic, we should also be mindful of our environment.”

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The virtual EEG Awards ceremony Image Credit: Supplied

“We can always practise recycling and proper segregation of waste materials at home,” added Nia, who collected 11,106kg of paper sent for recycling last year.

Emirati youth Ahmed Moosa Alhashimi, 12, second runner-up in the plastic collection campaign, told Gulf News: “I have encouraged my family and relatives to reduce wastage.”

Ahmed noted that because of the pandemic, there has been an upsurge in the use of plastic materials for health reasons but he said there are also simple ways to mitigate its environmental impact by following proper disposal of plastic materials which can be sent for recycling.

Joseph Manoj Chittilappilly, 11, Grade 7 student at Indian International School, Dubai Silicon Oasis, added: “It is extremely important that we recycle so that we and the future generations can enjoy a beautiful, clean and healthy world.”

Nia, Ahmed and Joseph are among the eco-warriors who were honoured during the 23rd cycle of EEG’s Emirates Recycling Awards on Monday.

Several academic institutions, government and private companies across the country were also awarded for participating in EEG’s recycling campaigns.

Create a greener UAE

EEG chairperson Habiba Al Mar’ashi told the winners and participants: “I would like to encourage you all to continue participating in our recycling campaigns, and to encourage your neighbours, friends and family to do the same so that we can create active, greener, communities here in the UAE.”

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EEG chairperson Habiba Al Mar’ashi Image Credit: Supplied

She added: “COVID-19 has revealed not just the fragility in our global health systems, but it is a greater wake up call than ever for all of us to act for environment. We need to go back to fundamentals and learn about our ecosystems and how we are inter-linked with one another.”

Al Mar’ashi reiterated environmental protection is part of the new normal.

“Recycling has become a new lifestyle that we all must adopt now, if we haven’t already. It starts from an individual. All we have to do is collect all the recyclables at home and working place and deposit it with the right entity for recycling. Let’s take this pandemic as an opportunity to create a new normal, which is better and thriving,” she further explained.

Increasing environmental awareness

Meanwhile, Taif Al Amiri, director of Government Communication at the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE), told Gulf News: “Protecting the environment is a shared responsibility. People’s contributions to environmental sustainability, whether big or small, are key.”

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Taif Al Amiri, director of Government Communication at the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment Image Credit: Supplied

According to MOCCAE’s annual surveys, overall environmental awareness by residents increased from 76 per cent in 2018 to 80 per cent in 2019. The youth segment recorded an 83 per cent awareness level in 2019 as compared to 80 percent in 2018.

Al Amiri said: “In the UAE, our goal is to nurture a love for the environment from a young age.”

List of EEG winners

Paper collection: The School of Research Science (Academic), Nia Tony (Individual), UAE Exchange Al Saaja (Corporate)

Plastic collection: Our Own High School, Al Warqaa (Academic), Namaa Ismail Al Zarooni (Individual), Emirates Flight Catering (Corporate)

Can collection: New York University Saadiyat Island Abu Dhabi (Academic), Joseph Manoj Chittilappilly (Individual), Emirates Flight Catering (Corporate)

Mobile phone collection: Al Warqaa (Academic), Shivani Adduri (Individual), Dubai Public Prosecution (Corporate)

Glass collection: New York University Saadiyat Island Abu Dhabi (Academic), Akanksha Singh (Individual), Emirates Flight Catering (Glass)

Printer toner collection: Muhammed Vakil (Individual), Sharjah Electricity & Water Authority (Corporate)