Clean-up draws record numbers of volunteers

Saturday’s annual Big Clean-Up global anti-littering and tidying campaign event drew around 175,000 participants, organizers said Monday after pulling together estimates from all of the 1600 official sites registered around Latvia this weekend.

Last year’s Big Clean-Up gathered 160,000, thus organizers were able to boast an increase in the number of people taking part this year. They also announced that besides picking up trash and litter, 40% of the sites also saw major tree-plantings and landscaping work done by the so-called ‘talcinieki’ – the Latvian word for volunteer chore-hands of family, friends and neighbors that make up the way of life in the traditional rural homesteading culture.

Other countries prided themselves on even bigger turnouts, with Ukraine reporting altogether 400,000 residents taking part in their Big Clean-Up.

Event leader Vita Jaunzeme urged next year’s ‘talcinieki’ to get even more competitive, as Latvia wants to spruce itself up like never before for its centennial birthday as an independent state coming up in 2018. She expressed the hope that residents would continue to clean up the land’s most polluted and untidy sites on a daily basis.

LSM was on hand at Lucavsala, where Riga Mayor Nils Ušakovs and other city officials did their part to clean up one of the city’s prospective undeveloped parklands, currently home to many weekend family gardens and vacant lots.

On the beach in Jūrmala, the village of Kaugurciems hosted a great ‘Talka’ to plant osier bushes along the sand dunes to thwart erosion from storms, while divers went underwater to remove the various flotsam and jetsam from the gulf-bed, everything from tires and car parts to other large objects of rubbish, like a refrigerator.

Far off in the Latgale border town of Ludza twelve boats set off into the town’s lake to tidy up its shores. Among the trash collectors were young local entrepreneurs who want to attract tourists to the lakeshore this summer. Within an hour they had stuffed more than 20 trashbags full and their work wasn’t even half done yet.

Ervīns, who hopes to have a camping site with boat rentals set up soon, plans to coordinate with the nearest culture centers in the region and even establish a boat-building center in the long run.

“We’re offering a nice place to relax on the lakeside, but the town of Rezekne and district of Cibla are nearby and offer lots to do, too,” he reckoned on the attraction.

Meanwhile in the western Kurzeme provincial village of Kalēti in Priekuļi district the willow alley fixed-up and planted in three years ago is showing its true colors now as the spring blossoms prepare to explode in bloom. The pride in what was achieved with the award-winning project three years ago has clearly inspired residents to keep up the hard work at each year’s subsequent Clean Up as well, and they continue to contribute to the collective landscaping costs of their lovely new willow alley.

 

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