The beaches of Timor Leste are beautiful, with dramatic mountains that drop down to long white shorelines.
But people are also cavalier about waste, throwing it away as they please.
It’s why one group, Movimentu Tasi Mos, decided to stop complaining and just do something about it themselves. Each weekend their gloves and their masks come out and they hit the beach.
Reporter Teodosia dos Reis has this story from the capital Dili.
It’s dawn here in the capital Dili and the sun is just starting to peek up over the mountains.
But on this wide stretch of beach, a group of young Timorese is already here.
They’re wearing surgical masks and white plastic gloves.
As they walk up the beach they pick up every piece of rubbish they see, old water bottles, cans, candy wrappers and discarded sandals.
They’re trying to clean up Dili’s beautiful beaches.
Gally Soares Arauj, the coordinator of Movimentu Tasi Mos, explains.
“We are young Timorese, and we can’t wait for the government to give us a job, but we are taking the initiative to help the government,” Gally stated.
“To make our capital beautiful and free of rubbish.”
Gally tells me his team has been doing this every weekend in Dili for almost one year now. At first, they started off with about six people.
They made a Facebook page and now they have about 50 members.
Every weekend Gally and his team trawl the beach collecting trash, and then they give it to a local NGO called Hopseller.
It’s the only NGO in the country that focuses on recycling.
“Before we start clean the beach, first time our team identifies the different types of garbage, after that we organise the trash and give it to the NGO Hopseller, so that it can be recycled and reused,” explained Gally.
Linda Jeronimo Guiterres is also here at the beach.
Linda is 21 and she says it’s important that young people in Timor Leste start caring about their environment.
“Timor-Leste is a new country, as a young women, I have to come to participate because I want Dili, especially the beach to be clean and beautiful, so that tourists want to visit here, and that will add income too.”
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In Timor Leste, the idea of recycling is still very new.
People just throw through their rubbish away without thinking.
Often when I walk around Dili I see people on the train throw their rubbish out the window, others throw their rubbish by the road, by the river, or wherever they are.
So the activities of Movimentu Tasi Mos are very unique here.
It’s why they have impressed some people in the government.
The forestry and fisheries minister, Estanislau da Silva has even started to join them on their weekend clean ups, trawling the beach.
He tells me why.
“I am very happy and want to support them and work together, not just on the weekend. Maybe there are other ways we work together to protect our sea ecosystem, to make sure it stays clean,” de Silva said.
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Timor Leste is a small nation with a population of 1.1 million. It’s also very new, we just gained independence from Indonesia in 1999.
The government is trying to find ways to develop new industries and the minister believes more environmental awareness will help the tourism industry.
“When our capital is clean especially, our beach, it will attract tourists to visit our country, and the tourists don’t always want to stay in hotels, they like to visit the beach so we can earn money from that,” de Silva told me.
The government is also starting to debate about a law to regulate littering.
But for now, Movimentu Tasi Mos, is leading the way.
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