Cleanliness is a factor of faith


Walk or drive around the busy thoroughfares of any major European city and chances are you will come across buildings undergoing extensive renovation. But surprisingly, there is little evidence of the construction litter and debris that usually accompanies such projects and is unsafe for motorists and pedestrians. The reason? Strict construction laws and a code of discipline and work ethics are deeply ingrained in their culture.

Now flash across several thousand miles to the city of Jeddah following a mildly windy day or a moderate dust storm. The city often resembles a war zone. Strewn over the roads and sidewalks will 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 our streets.

Why is it that building contractors do not feel compelled to retain their litter in appropriate containers so that 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?

Municipal inspectors should go out into every neighborhood handing out litter violations. With construction sites in practically every neighborhood, the coffers of the Municipality could become very handsome in a short time.

Instead, these inspectors waste business owners’ time and money by squabbling over the size, wording or color of their storefront signs, rather than doing a better job at 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 saw on much of the Corniche in the past. And rats bring disease.

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 it onto the nearest empty lot. This way it does not eat into their profit margins, but it leaves the rest of us fuming.

However, that does not absolve us from dealing with this mess. We as inhabitants of the city often are collaborators in making it 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. As for paper and plastics, you can be sure we throw it out. And just about anywhere we find convenient.

In our homes, we must teach 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 who go out to collect trash. 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 and shores every so often, and include school children in the process. It should not be left to their nannies or the domestic help to do what these kids should be taught to do at an early age.

Business owners and managers must enforce hygiene beyond their front doors. How often do we see filthy sidewalks and pathways in front of their shops? Their employees must be instructed not to dispose of their trash or wastewater two or three feet beyond their doors. I realize we have workers from all parts of the world, each with their own 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 an 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 not abide by it?

The author can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena