SHOCKED by the amount of plastic waste accumulating along the river embankment in Strabane, one man decided to take matters into his own hands.
Damian Gallagher spent one hour each day over the Easter break conducting an environmental clean-up of the banks of the River Foyle.
Bags, bottles, toys and agricultural waste were among the unsavoury scenes encountered by the Strabane man during his week-long effort.
"During recent family lockdown walks along the River Foyle at Strabane and seeing an increasing volume of plastic waste along stretches of the embankment, my frustration and disappointment made me ‘walk the walk’ and attempt to address it," Damian, who is convenor of the People Before Profit Tyrone branch, explained.
"We know that the current climate emergency is due to the current exploitative political-economic system of capitalism and its never-ending need for growth at any cost.
"I also believe that every generation has a duty to care for our environment and to pass it onto the next generation in a better state.
"We know that plastic is dangerous to our wildlife habitats and disintegrate into micro-plastics with destructive impacts on marine and fishing ecosystems."
Determined to do his bit Damian set himself a challenge over Easter to spend an hour a day on
He continued: "I set myself a challenge to spend one hour per day for eight consecutive days - the equivalent of an actual day of work - over the Easter break doing what I could to help.
"I made sure to take several safety precautions. I was equipped with a litter picker, gloves, reusable bags, a high-viz jacket, wellies, waterproof clothing and took great care to stay well away from the water’s edge.
"I was also in regular contact with my wife, who knew what time I was to return each day."
With his eight-day challenge now complete, Damian says he will continue with his efforts every weekend.
While every little helps, he says there is a need for stronger action from the statutory agencies to protect waterways from
"I found the problem is much, much worse than I could have ever imagined," he said.
"I was knee deep in bags, barrels, bottles, toys and agricultural plastic waste. It stretches for as far as you can see in so many places and there does not appear to be anyone addressing the problem at all.
"Urgent action is needed to address this very real issue and environmental threat by the Department of Environment Rural Affairs (DEARA).
"It is a tragedy for our environment and a horrible eye-sore that destroys what could be part of an attractive walking trail for domestic and overseas visitors.
"I only scratched a small part of the surface over the eight days, but every little act makes a difference, and I hope to continue now every weekend.
"It was a good form of light exercise, a great way of getting some fresh air and to switch off from all the Google Classrooms and Zoom meetings and reconnecting with nature again."