OVER 400 kg of waste was collected during the Malaysia Bersih Indah volunteer program in Pulau Jerejak, Penang.
Organized by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (Motac) Penang, the program aimed to foster the spirit of volunteerism among the local community and tourists.
A total of 80 determined volunteers spent about two hours under the scorching sun to clean up the beach at Pulau Jerejak.
Volunteers were from the Malaysian Tour Guides Association, Persatuan Pemandu Pelancong Mutiara Pulau Pinang, Penang Tour Guides Association (PTGA), Northeast District and Land Office, Island City Council from Penang, Jambatan Kedua Sdn Bhd and the northern territory of Tourism Malaysia.
Students from Penang Cosmopoint College joined them.
Arif Raziq, 27, director of corporate communications of Jambatan Kedua Sdn Bhd, was visiting Pulau Jerejak for the first time.
“I am delighted to be one of the volunteers who clean up the beach.
“It really is an eye-opening experience.
“We found a few tires, torn fishing nets and plastic garbage.
“I hope that visitors to the island can be more responsible and empty their waste.
“We need to protect our islands so that our future generations can enjoy them,” he said.
Tour guide PH Yeap, 71, volunteered to clean Teluk Bahang Beach, but this was his first time cleaning Pulau Jerejak Beach.
“I am happy to be able to help protect the environment.
“We found garbage left behind by irresponsible picnickers.
“They should clean the area before they leave.
“It will take over 100 years for their food containers to decompose and this will affect marine life,” he said.
PTGA President Chin Poh Chin said it was her first visit to this part of Pulau Jerejak.
“I used to bring tourists to the resort on the other side of Pulau Jerejak.
“We were shocked today to find helmets, plastic bottles, styrofoam boxes and other items washed up on the beach.
“I hope people will be more considerate and do their part to protect the environment,” she said.
Chin added that 15 PTGA members have volunteered for the program.
“Pulau Jerejak is a potential destination for ecotourism,” she said.
Meanwhile, Motac Penang director Jonathan Freddy Bagang said the cleanup was the first volunteer program held this year.
“We organized similar programs before the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Pulau Jerejak, which has several well-known landmarks, can be a tourist destination.
“Here we have a clean and pleasant beach where tourists can picnic.
“Tourists can contact travel agents to find out what packages are available to visit the island.
“When international borders are reopened, tourism stakeholders may consider offering sunset dinners on boats here,
“They can enjoy the view while dining,” said Freddy.
In addition to volunteering, the program included the concept of volonsharing.
This implied that the participants share on social networks their experiences of volunteering in tourist places with the aim of promoting the destinations.
“We hope this program can help promote ecotourism and showcase Pulau Jerejak’s unique selling points,” said Freddy.
Located between George Town and Seberang Prai, the island was once home to a prison, a leper colony and a tuberculosis hospital.
Pulau Jerejak Maximum Security Prison began operating in 1969 and closed in August 1993.
Only three prison blocks out of the original 23 remain today.