For a desert island surrounded by the ocean, it’s remarkable how little attention we pay to the coastal environment and marine life in Bahrain. Khawla Al Muhannadi speaks of her undertaking to mobilise resources within the Kingdom.
As the first female president of a mixed gender NGO, Khawla Al Muhannadi comes across as an articulate environmental evangelist who specialises in coaching youth and children.
“This initiative was launched in response to a lack of awareness towards environmental issues, especially those related to people’s behaviour, lifestyle and attitudes towards wildlife and natural resources,” says Khawla, president of Environment Friends Society (EFS). “We decided to make a difference by helping people understand the impact of their actions,” she says.
At EFS, close attention is paid to environmental education and awareness, especially among the younger generation. Her brief includes visits to schools, taking school children on environmental trips to threatened habitats and holding environmental contests in schools. She also conducts public seminars and lectures as well as campaigning to protect threatened habitats and species.
The rescue of marine animals in distress is an area close to Khawla’s heart. Earlier this year, EFS volunteers rescued a loggerhead turtle from a beach on Amwaj Islands after a local resident raised alarm.
“The animal was covered with seaweed and unable to keep afloat. After rescuing it from the sea, we took it to a safe location, where it’s being cared for. We plan to release it on another beach where it has a better chance of survival,” she says.
She rescued another turtle, this one was a hawksbill, from the beach at Seef; this animal, though, was badly injured and will need a few months to recover before it can be released into the sea.
“We’re worried and alarmed over the instances of dead dolphins, dugongs and sea turtles in recent years. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of a few minutes. If people can alert us the moment they spot a marine animal in distress, the chances of its survival are much higher,” she notes.
Having grown up in the green neighbourhood of Riffa, Khawla derives her inspiration from childhood memories of the sea, the trees and birds and the lost natural heritage since then.
“Already, many birds that were visible in Bahrain in my childhood have vanished. We don’t want our natural world heritage to disappear entirely,” she says.
The Reem programme launched for little environmental leaders (aged between 5 and 17) aims to create awareness, where every child volunteers time to contribute something, either in the form of a painting, an essay or a poem dedicated to nature. The society also holds a bi-annual event for families, the Child and Environment Festival.
The EFS will mark World Environment Day in June with a two-day workshop for training the trainers in water conservation.
“Around 30 participants will learn how to lead a water-wise lifestyle and get trained to teach others. Participants will include teachers and civil societies working with housewives, hoteliers and environmental educators. Those wishing to participate can send their request to firstname.lastname@example.org or through our Facebook page,” Khawla adds.