By Nawara Fattahova

KUWAIT: Residents of homes built along Kuwait’s coastal areas are facing numerous issues related to the public’s use of beaches. Kuwait Times spoke to some of the residents to learn more about the problems they encounter.

Laila and her family moved to a seaside home in Messila in 1975, one of the first families to move to the area. “When we moved to this area, we didn’t have neighbors. Even the roads were not built yet and there was no electricity as well. The area was quiet even when more people moved to live here, until a few years ago when a restaurant complex opened here. More people started coming and using the beach, and it became dirty. It’s the right of people to use the beach, but they should keep it clean and not litter,” she complained to Kuwait Times.

“I go daily with my family or neighbors to clean the beach of people’s trash. Sometimes we pay workers to clean the beach – we get tens of plastic bags full of waste collected from the beach. The beach here is very narrow when it’s high tide, which will then make the sea filthy. We have even found syringes thrown on the beach by drug addicts and empty bottles of alcohol. When the government allows people to use the beaches in our neighborhood, they also should ensure to clean it, or close it for residents only and we will clean it,” added Laila.

Visitors to the area often move beyond the public beach area – which is legally open to all – and into the private property of residents. “Last week I found five children swimming in my pool, and they didn’t want to leave. Also last year, some girls wearing bikinis were swimming in my pool as well,” she explained, noting that she did not know any of the children. During the full curfew in May, visitors invaded private spaces repeatedly. “I had to call the police three times to make people sitting in my garden and on my grass to leave,” she added.

Violations have spread to the sea. “We go to rescue stingrays that are trapped in illegal fishing traps. Some people also use special weapons to kill the stingrays. And all these behaviors are damaging the environment – both the beach and the sea,” said Laila.

Yasmeen is a resident of Messila as well and has experienced a plethora of problems related to visitors on the nearby public beach. “No one has trespassed into my garden, but many times we have been disturbed by loud music or other behaviors of people. Some people who come for fishing in our area are respectful of the beach and take with them everything they bring when they leave. But there are many others who leave their trash behind them and simply leave,” she pointed out.

“The Municipality said their cleaners only clean the roads but not the beaches. So we have to clean this garbage ourselves almost daily. We even placed trash bins on the beach to encourage beachgoers to throw their waste in them, but after a few days, somebody stole the bins. We suggest the government develops the seaside and charges nominal fees for entry, providing facilities such as chairs, changing rooms, toilets and so on. This way the beaches will be cleaned daily,” stressed Yasmeen.

Sundus, a resident of Bidaa coastal area, has also faced violations of her property. “Somebody stole my kayak that was in the yard of my house. A few weeks ago, someone stole my child’s bicycle that was in the garden. People do not respect the privacy of our houses. Since they allow people to use the beaches, the government should also provide the neighborhood with guards who have the authority to hand fines to violators,” she noted.

Littering of beaches and public spaces is a widespread and well-known problem in Kuwait. Despite efforts by local non-government organizations to organize beach clean-ups and awareness campaigns, many visitors to public parks and beaches still leave large amounts of trash behind. “Almost daily, we the residents of this neighborhood have to clean the beach of all kinds of waste left behind by beachgoers. This includes dog litter, dirty diapers and many other disgusting stuff,” Sundus said.

“Furthermore, our families are annoyed by the jet skis approaching the beach, which is not allowed, mainly to harass girls sitting on the beach. Once I called the police, but before the police arrived, the jet skiers were gone. Also, it’s forbidden for vehicles to drive on the beach, but many people do so. The Municipality blocked the access point so they cannot drive, but they found another way. These violators should be ticketed, but police don’t have enough personnel to do this,” Sundus further complained.

The gross negligence by many visitors to clean up after themselves has led residents in some areas to block public beach access or cordon off empty lots as a way to prevent visitors from reaching the beach. The measures have led to greater dissatisfaction on both sides and a rise in conflict, as well as an added burden for the Municipality, which is required by law to remove all obstacles blocking beach access. A solution will require greater public awareness and more adherence to anti-littering efforts from all those involved.