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Cleaning up the environment, one beach at a time

Dr Valarmathy with the three other founders of the project, Chloe (in blue), Farah Ainn (back row, left) and Winnie (back row, right), with volunteer Olivia.

MOST people would probably feel that picking up trash is an unappealing activity, but not the eye doctor and nature lover Dr. Valarmathy Vaiyavari.

The 35-year-old ophthalmologist is in training at Universiti Malaya Medical Centre in Kuala Lumpur and currently in the third year of a Master’s program.

She has loved animals and nature since childhood. “Many environmental issues that endanger wildlife and threaten the beauty of nature sadden me. A few years ago, I watched a video on animal farming and realized the suffering endured and the huge impact on the environment.

The Tanjung Piai beach clean-up attracted the most number of volunteers, who collected a total of 633kg of trash

“I believe that was the beginning of my journey. It led me to reduce meat consumption, refuse single-use plastics and also practice recycling at home,” she told DW.

In February this year, along with three other friends, Dr. Valarmarthy initiated a clean-up project at the popular nature spot Templers Park, which is north of Kuala Lumpur.

Since then, there have been seven other such projects involving beaches, hiking trails, waterfalls and parks.

Volunteers come from all walks of life and often includes children.

“I initiated the beach clean-up activity mainly due to my love for animals and nature. Photos of trash causing injuries to wildlife and marine animals like plastics stuck in their noses, rings around their neck and even death caused by ingestion of plastics, were too sad to see.

“Wildlife and nature should be preserved for the next generation. I realized beaches are the bridge between the land and ocean, so they were a good place to start.”

To date, a total of 1,509 kg of trash has been collected. The biggest project took place at Tanjung Piai Beach, Selangor on September 22 and was held in conjunction with International Coastal Clean-up Day. Some 630 kilos of trash were scooped up 92 volunteers, the highest number to date. They included six children, with the youngest aged three.

“The teamwork of Malaysians who come together regardless of age and race never fails to amaze me,” says Dr. Valarmathy.

She is particularly touched by a volunteer named Yip Kim Ean in her late 50s, a teacher who drives all the way from Penang, some four hours’ drive away from Kuala Lumpur, with her friends to join in with the monthly activities.

Dr. Valarmathy with volunteer Mimi during the first clean-up project at Templer’s Park held in February this year.

“She is a kind person who always cooks breakfast for our volunteers,” adds Dr. Valarmathy, who also volunteers her time at animal sanctuaries and has helped to provide free eye clinics for the urban poor.

“Picking up trash is not very glamorous, but I am very thankful to all my friends and volunteers who wake up early on weekends to join us despite their busy schedule.

“As long as wildlife and marine life continue to suffer, I will continue to do my part. The aim is to spread awareness about pollution and its impact on the environment and wildlife.

“Preserving the inspiring beauty of both the ocean and land is our duty towards the next generation. It just makes sense for all of us to start playing a role, no matter how small, to protect marine life for our own benefit.”

Author: Elle Wong (act)


27.12.2018 | 13:12