Trash collector protects ‘ever green’ Sơn Trà

March 17, 2019 - 09:00

Đào Đặng Công Trung, 41, has worked as a voluntary trash collector in the Sơn Trà Nature Reserve in the central city of Đà Nẵng over the past decade since he was captivated by the beauty of the reserve.

Going clean: Đào Đặng Công Trung collects rubbish in the Sơn Trà Nature Reserve in Đà Nẵng. He does a ’trash hunt’ twice a day.— Photo courtesy Đào Trung
Viet Nam News

Hoài Nam

Đào Đặng Công Trung, 41, has worked as a voluntary trash collector in the Sơn Trà Nature Reserve in the central city of Đà Nẵng over the past decade since he was captivated by the beauty of the reserve.

Trung, born in Quảng Nam Province, started offering cruise tours on the Hàn River and in the waters off the coast of Đà Nẵng in 2010.

In 2011, Trung was able to collect trash in the reserve twice a day after he began working as a sports coach at a resort in the reserve.

The tour operator takes two motorbike trips – one hour each – in the morning and evening with the aim of picking up rubbish.

“Rubbish is everywhere – on the roads, jungle paths, bushes and coral reefs. I often collect 5kg to 7kg daily on main treks in the reserve,” Trung said, adding that 80 per cent of rubbish was plastic bottles and bags.

“I spend my own money on garbage collection, travelling 25km five days a week. The weekend is busy as I clean rubbish on beaches and coral reefs,” he described.

He said clearing rubbish at the foot of the Sơn Trà Mountain was tough as he had to carry bags of rubbish 300m uphill to the main road.

The reserve has three trek routes for tourists. The area is a safe habitat of the red-shanked douc langur (Pygathryx nemaeus), an endangered primate listed by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The voluntary trash collector said rubbish was usually left by unaware visitors and young people during group trips to the 4,439ha nature reserve.

“They (the visitors) brought food in plastic containers, plastic bags and bottles. These take many years to decompose,” Trung said.

“Tourists are unaware of the rule that says: do not leave anything in the jungle, except footprints, and do not take anything from the jungle, except photos.”

Dangerous: Volunteers rescue an animal stuck in a soft drink can in Sơn Trà. — VNS Photo Huyền Trang
Helping out: Local rangers and residents take part in an afforestation campaign in Sơn Trà Mountain. — VNS Photo Bùi Tuấn

In preparation for regular trash collection, Trung equipped himself with tools and bags to carry at least 50kg.

He said coral reefs off the Sơn Trà peninsula were so beautiful, but the underwater ecology system was littered by plastic bags and bottles, fishing nets, broken foam and plastic pieces.

Trung said he collected many plastic bottles to sell for charity to support underprivileged and ill children in hospitals.

Picking up rubbish in the Sơn Trà reserve captures his endless love of nature and childhood habit of cleaning the environment.

The Quảng Nam-born sportsman said he had joined the global trash packer – a voluntary organisation – as a Đà Nẵng-based ambassador of the Việt Nam garbage collector network.

He has called for mass participation from the community and tourists in clearing the Sơn Trà reserve from garbage.

Trung said rubbish left in the reserve would kill langurs and other wildlife if they eat or drink the leftovers.

He said he witnessed monkeys looking for food in garbage piled along the paths rather than fresh fruit in the jungle.

Young volunteers and school students also helped clean the Sơn Trà Mountain environment.

The Đà Nẵng–based Centre of Biodiversity Conservation, GreenViet, has helped establish guides for nature trips in the Sơn Trà nature reserve for more than 25,000 school students and teachers and 3,000 local residents between 2012 and 2017.

The NGO also supported the establishment of a ‘green guard’ team with the participation of local school students for caring and protecting the forest.

Trung was honoured in the "I Love Đà Nẵng" campaign, for people with the most helpful contribution to the community in 2018.

He says he will keep trekking and clearing the Sơn Trà nature reserve as he could enjoy the scenery during his daily ‘trash hunts’. — VNS