Russian surfer spearheads central Vietnam beach clean-up

By Tam Linh   January 20, 2020 | 05:00 am PT
Russian surfer spearheads central Vietnam beach clean-up
Volunteers collect trash on Phu Quy Island in the south central province of Binh Thuan. Photo courtesy of Igor Yudakov.
Finding a pristine south-central beach strewn with piles of trash, a Russian surfer initiated a locally supported clean-up operation.

Igor Yudakov, a professional Russian surfer, has visited Phu Quy Island, 120 kilometers (74 miles) from Phan Thiet Town in Binh Thuan Province, six times. On a recent two-month break with his wife Maria Nelasova, he found the island sagging under trash.

"This is a beautiful island. But the huge amount of trash being dumped into the ocean threatens the marine environment," Yudakov said.

Taking matters into his own hands, the surfer called on his peers to help collect trash across the island, where a tourism boom has seen the emergence of luxury hotels and related services.

With a population of 30,000 and a growing number of tourists, Phu Quy Island faces growing pressure from trash, said Ngo Tan Luc, vice chairman of Phu Quy District.

Via Facebook, Yudakov recruited over 100 volunteers, mainly local residents, to assist in the clean-up campaign and transport waste back to the mainland for treatment.

Igor Yudakov drives to transport bags of trash to dedicated point. Photo courtesy of Maria Nelasova.

Igor Yudakov, no trash talker, ropes in his motorbike to move bags of waste to a local collection. Photo courtesy of Maria Nelasova.

With approval from local authorities, the volunteer clean-up usually occurs on weekend mornings.

"My father was a Soviet sailor who used to work on ships delivering aid to Vietnam, and a member of the collective awarded the Ho Chi Minh medal," said Yudakov, explaining his affinity for the country.

"I'm glad to see many children who understand the harms of waste join us. A young generation with a sense of environmental protection will make the world greener," he added.

Yudakov hopes the local government would implement policies limiting plastic waste harmful to the environment, and develop a waste recycling system. The surfer, alongside fellow environmentalists, plans to collect rubbish ahead of Lunar New Year, or Tet, to welcome the new year.

Young Vietnamese have hailed the initiative, saying it would help prevent a lot of garbage entering the environment, many calling for a decrease in disposable plastic use.

Each Vietnamese person consumed only 3.8 kg of plastic in 1990, but 28 years later this had risen to 41.3 kg, according to a report released last year by Ipsos Business Consulting, a global growth strategy consulting firm based in Paris.

Vietnam discharges around 18,000 tons of plastic waste a day, according to Da Nang Center for Consultancy on Sustainable Development.

However, experts have expressed concern over how beaches in Vietnam are being trashed at an alarming rate, the country boasting ignominy as the fourth largest sea polluter in the world, according to United Nations Environment Program.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc last year issued a national action plan on the management of plastic waste in the ocean until 2030, aiming to fulfill the country's international commitment to resolve the issue of marine plastic contamination. Vietnam will cut down 75 percent of its marine plastics and stop generating plastic waste in coastal tourist areas by 2030, the PM stated.

No larger or more crowded than better-known counterpart Phu Quoc, the island of Phu Quy was hailed by readers of U.S. news site CNN as one of the most beautiful in South China Sea, which Vietnam calls East Sea.

An aerial shot captures the stunning beauty of Phu Quy Island in the central province of Binh Thuan. Photo by Shutterstock. 

An aerial view of Phu Quy Island in the central province of Binh Thuan. Photo by Shutterstock. 

Phu Quy Island is best enjoyed between December and June when there is little rain but plenty of sun shining down on the crystal blue waters.

Vietnam has emerged as a favorite destination for Russian holiday-goers in recent years and is expected to surpass its neighbor Thailand, a favored Russian haunt for a long time.

Russia was the sixth largest source market for Vietnam’s tourism last year with more than 600,000 Russians visiting the country, up 6.1 percent from a year ago, official data shows.

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