Khawla Al-Muhannadi on how the EFS is saving marine life off Bahrain's coast
Time Out Bahrain staff
Last month we showed you a picture of a turtle saved from death by the Environment Friends Society. Director Khawla Al-Muhannadi told us about the group’s work and that rescue.
Please tell us a bit about the history of Environment Friends, how long has the group been running, how did it get started and how are things organised?
The Environment Friends Society (EFS) Bahrain was founded in 2000 as part of the World Environment Day celebrations under the theme ‘the new millennium, time to act’.
A website was launched in both Arabic and English to raise awareness of the environment under the name Environment Electronic Friends (EEF). It was founded by three young Bahrainis and later evolved into a youth initiative to publicise environmental issues.
EFS has always been characterised by a strong youth presence through members and chairs of committees. (Having Khawla at its head makes EFS the first mixed-gender Bahraini society to be led by a woman, which encourages more young females to join.)
The society was formed in response to a lack of awareness towards environmental issues, especially those related to individuals’ daily behaviour, lifestyle and attitudes towards wildlife and natural resources Led by a young woman, we were three young people of Bahrain with IT backgrounds who decided to make a difference and help people understand the impact of their actions and that they are a critical part of the environment. Since then the EFS has been the fastest growing non-political NGO in Bahrain having significantly increased its membership from the original three to more than 1,000!
The membership is open for all age groups, all nationalities, both genders and all specialties and backgrounds. Among the members are children, consultants, housewives, university students and many other categories.
The EFS consists of board members, advisory council, committees and friends. The 30 advisory members are experts in fields such as water, biology, marine sciences, chemistry, nutrition, law, media, social studies, management, medicine, biodiversity, pollution, art, religion and literature. What kind of things do you do? We work through committees and with other organisations in Bahrain and the region and we’re closely associated with Parliament and the Shura Council.
EFS pays close attention to environmental education and awareness. Activities include: visits to schools (environmental lectures, seminars and workshops); taking school children on environmental trips to threatened habitats; environmental contests in schools; public seminars and lectures; organising environmental field trips for decision makers and the public; making TV and radio appearances; getting involved with newspaper articles, interviews, news, pictures and cartoons; campaigning to protect threatened habitats and species, supporting environmental events by schools, other NGOs and government and taking part in our big bi-annual event for families, the Child & Environment Festival.
You were recently involved in the rescue of the turtle in Amwaj, how did that come about and what was wrong with the creature? I was contacted by Amwaj resident, Gaye Bentham, who had seen the turtle and spotted that she was in trouble (the creature was covered in seaweed and hardly able to keep afloat). I set in motion stage one of a rescue plan and led the rescue process with calling individuals and other organisations to ask for help. Some EFS members went into the cold water to bring the turtle from deeper water and stayed with her till the rest of the team were able to get into the water and bring her onto the beach.
The turtle, which has been identified as a loggerhead, was then transferred to a safe location where appropriate care was given, she received constant care and began to show signs of recovery.
We don’t how she got into this state. This is a question that everyone wants an answer for. There are many possible scenarios, one of which is pollution or some internal illness in her blood or digestion system. Turtles being affected by eating plastic bags was a possible scenario but this was ruled out after an X-ray.
The most important thing is that she showed a big improvement from day one till today (day 17). She was hardly moving and had her head down. Now she is swimming and she has shown interest in food at least twice. We are gradually improving her environment and preparing her to be released soon insh’Allah.
The government, especially Supreme Council for Environment and Fisheries Authorities, Veteran Government Clinic, King Hamad Hospital and the Royal Court supported the Environment Friends Society in this I thank Gaye for investing time to find us and call for help, many people must have seen the poor thing but did not take any action. Many times, the difference between life and death is taking the initiative so we ask anyone who sees an injured marine creature such as turtles, dugongs and dolphins to contact us either via mobile, email or facebook. For more details call (39 433 228/33 774 400), email firstname.lastname@example.org or look on facebook at Bahrain.Environment.