Christine Siamanta Kinori, a published travel writer recently caught up with Mozambique’s Carlos Manuel Dos Santos Serra for an interview. In this amazing interview, he delves into one of his projects that is geared at cleaning up Mozambique beaches and the future of our sea life if the next generation joins the fight.
Tell us about yourself
My name is Carlos Manuel Dos Santos Serra. I was born in the city of Beira, Mozambique, in 1973. I have a degree in Law, Professor of Environmental Law and Environmental Activist. I currently lead an Environmental Education Cooperative and the Let’s Do It Mozambique.
What inspired you to champion for clean beaches in Mozambique?
I was born and raised in front of the sea. I have gained a great deal of fascination for nature in general and for the sea in particular. Over time, I became aware of a number of environmental problems, especially pollution of the sea. Four years ago, after realizing that the environmental education actions carried out in the country were not enough, I decided to join several people and create a permanent environmental education campaign through voluntary clean-up actions. The first took place precisely on the beach of my childhood – Costa Do Sol beach, having gathered around 1200 volunteers. It was a huge success.
Which one of your project really impressed you?
Last year (2018) we held World Cleaning Day. We had around 100,000 people to clean throughout the country, covering all cities and many villages. What struck me most was the participation and voluntary participation of many young people, contradicting the perception that the youth do nothing without the promise of some kind of remuneration. This is proof that something new is happening and for that greatly contributes to the growth of access to information in the digital age
According to you, what is the biggest human action threat to our African beaches and what is being done to overcome it?
It is difficult to speak of only one great threat. What happens is the combination of various problems, seriously threatening the coastal zone and its populations. The African coast is now impacted by climate change and extreme weather events, we have the problem of disorderly, illicit and inadequate urbanization, we also face the problem of pollution (including plastic and waste water pollution), culminating in the destruction of vegetation excessive fishing and destruction of coral reefs.
What is the greatest challenge to our African beaches that have been brought about by the global warming crisis and what can be done to solve it?
Much work needs to be done to organize populations and activities in the coastal zone. It is essential that the coast, being a sensitive ecosystem, be properly protected and conserved, knowing that millions of people from it take their livelihood. There has to be strong political will to stop and combat disorderly occupation, the destruction of mangroves and dunes, as well as the landscape. It is also necessary to work on beach restoration, including sand reclamation, cleaning activities, control of pollution sources (liquid and solid waste), as well as the monitoring of use.
Do you think the government is doing enough to save the beaches?
Speaking in the case of Mozambique, I must say that there is still a long way to go. Not only with regard to maintaining cleanliness on beaches, but also in controlling pollution sources, preventing and combating illegal construction, driving cars, destroying mangroves and coastal vegetation, etc.
So far in your environmental project, how has leadership affected the outcome?
We cannot yet speak of a global change at the national level, but we have strong indications of greater involvement of local leaders in solving environmental problems with a focus on waste management. We are sure that better days will come, and it is very important not to give up now.
In your opinion, what can a mere citizen do to save our beaches?
Improving the situation of the marine and coastal environment depends on global solutions, including reducing emissions and mitigating climate change. But locally, anyone can contribute their part. Firstly, they can always acting in a beach-friendly way by not polluting and avoid loitering the beach ground. They can stop destroying the dunes and coastal vegetation. Secondly, taking positive action, for example, always picking up some rubbish at each visit to the beach (I always do this as a rule of life) and depositing in the nearest container or trash can. Thirdly, they can bring together other friends and sympathizers of the cause, to organize larger and regular actions, including the involvement of children and young people. They are the future generation and the most important is education and awareness. Finally, pooling of efforts can lead to a permanent beach conservation program, including landscape and biodiversity protection.
Do you think that we have put the economy first and forgotten about nature?
This is a global problem of humanity perhaps it is the biggest of the problems. We cannot perceive that there is and cannot even be an economy without a healthy environment. There are so many examples of wrongdoings that we see out there .It is time to put the environment as a priority in the international political agenda and in each State of this Planet.
What has been the most effective way to sensitize visitors on throwing rubbish at the beach?
From the experience I have gathered, the best way to quickly educate for change is to achieve voluntary membership and participation. It is impossible to remain indifferent after a cleaning action on the beach. It is a true lesson for the soul.
Given your first hand expertise in this matter, what do you think is the best way to curb the rapidly rising sea levels?
In my view, above all, we must minimize the impact on coastal ecosystems because they are our most valuable and effective barriers against the advancement of seawater, including coral reefs, mangroves, dunes and vegetation native. The coast must be all requalified in favor of the environment.
As a legal expert, do you think that legally binding actions can/should be taken to help save our beaches?
Legislation should be improved in the sense of the protection and conservation of beaches, and in this regard it is essential to exchange experiences at international level. Some countries have made great strides in building adequate legislation. However, nothing will improve without the capacity to implement this legislation. It is essential to allocate much more resources for inspection and to demand from the prosecutors and policemen an intervention under the legislation. Impunity generates emptiness, mistrust and disbelief in institutions and ends up conveying a negative message that crime pays off.
What solutions do you think other African nations should adopt to save their beaches?
There are several immediate solutions, it is necessary to intervene in the source of the pollution, that is, to approve rules that reduce or eliminate the production of liquid and solid waste that are affecting the environmental quality of African beaches. In the case of liquid waste, this implies a greater investment in basic sanitation systems and waste water pretreatment. In relation to solid waste, especially packaging, legislation should be passed to make producers, importers and traders responsible for packaging. Only then will the packaging have a value that is favorable to the growth of the recycling industry.
Is there hope for nature in the near future?
Hope? I always have. No matter how often I wake up with some skepticism. Human beings have demonstrated on numerous occasions in the history of humanity to be capable of the most beautiful and solidary actions. And that day is about to arrive.
What advice would you give someone in the next generation looking to follow in your footstep?
We must quickly change paradigms, stop giving more value to material goods, to the things we consume, to the unsustainable lifestyle. Instead, it’s time to pay more attention to people, to feelings, to Nature, to the little things of life.