Trio using diving skills to rid seabed of waste

A dive team from Old Town in Mombasa County prepares to dive into the sea and clean the ocean bed. [Robert Menza, Standard]

For Ahmed Mohamed, Said Omar, and Yasin Karama, the Indian Ocean has shaped them to be the men they are.

This is where they learnt to swim when growing up having been born and raised in Old Town, an ancient village in Mombasa. 

The ocean habours many childhood memories for them. While swimming was just a hobby they acquired when they were little boys, they have made careers out of it.

The three are now professional divers. Apart from earning from diving, they engage in cleaning up the ocean every once in a while. 

Ahmed says the ocean is no longer what it used to be when they were growing up. It has lost some of its glory over the years. What concerns him more is the wanton pollution that seems to worsen by the day. 

The cleanups might not help much but Ahmed says they are doing their part in protecting their only source of income. 

“Just like beach cleanups, underwater cleanups form an important step in maintaining the beauty and cleanliness of the water, as well as the safety of all the creatures that live in it,” said Ahmed.

On the day of this interview, we caught up with Ahmed at the popular Madhubahar beach near the Coast Provincial General Hospital planning an underwater clean up after the recent heavy rains in Mombasa that left some areas flooded.

A dive team from Old Town in Mombasa County prepares to launch a dinghy (rubber boat) before taking to the sea to dive and clean the ocean bed. [Robert Menza, Standard]

‘’Apart from household wastes that easily find their way into large water masses like oceans, rivers and lakes, heavy debris and trash easily end up in the water with some floating and others submerged,’’ he said.

Diving, Ahmed says is an art. The first step in planning an underwater clean up is locating the appropriate dive site, he adds.

‘’You have to be keen on where you intend to carry the cleanup exercise just like the way those who organise beach cleanups above water and on dry land next to the seashore do. Some sites are in better shape than others, so you might require to focus on dive sites in the area that are in dire need of clean up,’’ he added.

Karama who had been preparing to launch their dinghy ( rubber inflated boat) into the ocean said that more and more people are becoming aware of the danger the ocean is facing from pollution and are now taking part in cleanup exercises.

While undertaking the task, the divers have to be extra cautious not to destroy the fragile coral reefs and other plants underwater.

‘’Litter on the beach makes the environment around not attractive and at the same time dangerous as some dumped garbage could be hazardous,’’ Karama who is also a trained coxswain said.

Beaches are littered mostly with plastic bags, balloons, straws, and pieces of plastic that are often mistaken for food by marine life.

Such materials, Karama said cause injury and death to millions of marine mammals, turtles, birds, and other marine creatures.

Ahmed who took his first plunge in the ocean when he was eight years old said the ocean is quite dear to them and are willing to dedicate more time to such cleanup activities.

‘’We do it purely on a voluntary basis. However, we also undertake commercial diving activities,’’ he said.

For example, Ahmed has participated in the purpose sinking of some decommissioned vessels along the Kenya Coast that end up becoming artificial reefs.

When Covid-19 struck, Ahmed and his team stayed away from the water following lockdown regulations.

“When the lockdown was lifted, we made our first dive and encountered a rather cleaner seabed,” he said