Walk or drive around the busy thoroughfares of any major European city and chances are you’d come across buildings undergoing extensive renovation.
But surprisingly, there is little evidence of construction litter and debris that usually accompany such projects, and would invariably be unsafe to motorists or pedestrians.
Strict construction laws and a code of discipline and work ethics deeply ingrained in their culture. Now flash across several thousand miles to the city of Jeddah following a mild windy day or a moderate dust storm. The city often resembles a war zone.
Strewn over the roads and sidewalks would be litter, and tons of it.
Particleboards, plywood, wood beams, empty cement sacks, paint cans, trash bags with their contents spilled out, and much more.
It is not surprising that construction litter often makes up the bulk of the trash spread all over.
Why is it that building contractors do not feel compelled to retain their litter in appropriate containers whereby the wind cannot blow them all over the place?
Even with large litter containers often seen at large construction sites, the debris seems to settle everywhere except in the container itself.
Where are our municipality inspectors who are being paid to enforce such laws? Or are these laws simply penned on paper for everyone to ignore? Hello, Mr. Mayor!
Get down on your bungling bureaucracy and get them out onto every neighborhood handing out litter violations.
With construction sites in full gear in practically every neighborhood, the coffers of the municipality could become very handsome in a short time. Instead of your inspectors wasting business owners’ time and money by squabbling over the size, wording or color of their storefront signs, let them do a better job of enforcing municipal laws that affect all of us.
This litter that is often left unattended for days on end soon turns into filth, and a breeding ground for rats, as we have seen much of the Corniche suffer. And rats bring diseases. Empty or undeveloped lots are easy targets for building contractors.
Rather than take the time and effort to dump their waste in specified areas, most contractors simply shovel this crap onto the nearest empty lot. This way it does not eat into their profit margins, but sure as hell leaves the rest of us fuming. That does not absolve the rest of us from this mess.
We as inhabitants of the city often are collaborators in making this place dirty. We do not bag our trash and place it in appropriate containers. We fling litter out of vehicle windows, or empty soda cans onto sidewalks. Paper or plastics, you can be sure we throw it out.
And just about anywhere we find convenient. In our homes, we must preach to our children the importance of keeping our neighborhoods and cities clean. And we must lead them by example. A father who carelessly dumps trash out of his car window while driving and without giving it a further thought is often observed by his offspring, who in turn one day will do the same.
While education begins at home, our schools could contribute by forming teams of school children armed with litterbags and take them out on trash collection beats. Let these kids learn at an early age the consequence of such careless, lazy and thoughtless actions.
We should use teams of volunteers to clean up our beaches every summer, and must consciously include school children in such a process. It should not be left to their nannies or the domestic help to do what these kids should be taught at an early age. Business owners and managers must enforce hygiene beyond their front doors.
How often do we see their sidewalks and pathways filthy and beyond reasonable trespass? Their employees must be instructed not to dispose of their trash or waste water two or three feet beyond their doors.
I realize we have workers from all parts of the world, each with his standard of hygiene. However, as dwellers of this city, we must collectively establish one standard to fit all. And that does not mean acceptance of any litter on our streets and roads.
Cleanliness is a critical component of our religion, but I wonder why we are so lax when it comes to adhering to such matters of faith. Creating nuisance for our neighbors with our trash is another aspect that our faith warns us against.
And yet again, we hardly give it much thought when we dump our rejects in front of someone else’s abode. No government in the world can police this kind of selfish violation, if we as individuals are not willing to participate in making our immediate environment cleaner. After all, cleanliness is an important element of our faith.
Should we just pay lip service to it?