A child plays on the beach in Rabat. Activists blame lack of awareness for increasing water pollution.- AFP file photo
Rabat - In Morocco's commercial capital, netizens post on a "Save Casablanca" Facebook page.
Blessed with a coastline that stretches for hundreds of kilometres across flat sandy expanses and rugged coves, Morocco's beaches should be a magnet - but a litter crisis risks repelling sun seekers, citizens say.
On a small beach in the capital Rabat the words "Keep your city clean" are daubed across largely empty bins, seemingly mocked by the detritus on the ground.
The litter "spoils the pleasure", says 22-year-old Said, who has come to Oudayas beach for a dip with friends to cool off on a hot day.
"Unfortunately, people don't realise the importance of keeping beaches clean," he laments, surrounded by cigarette butts and other trash, just a few steps from the edge of the old city.
Some feel they are fighting a losing battle. "Rubbish collectors clean the beach from top to bottom every morning, but in the evening, bathers leave it even dirtier," says a local official. "Perhaps megaphones should be used to sensitise the people and embarrass the polluters," he adds.
The state of this small beach in the capital is far from unique.
Every summer, Morocco's media publish reports lambasting the condition of sands stretching from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic.
A nationwide ban on plastic bags imposed in 2016 appears to have done little to stem the tide of rubbish piling up on beaches, despite authorities strictly enforcing the measure.
The problem is in part generated outside Morocco - Greenpeace estimates that the equivalent of a truckload of plastic enters the world's seas every 60 seconds.
But volunteers who take part in beach clean-ups say far too many Moroccans dump refuse without a second thought. "In recent years we've seen water pollution increase due to a lack of awareness," says 45-year-old Mohammed El Machkour, president of the Al Marjane sporting association.
Only 21 out of 40 beaches nominated nationwide for the coveted international "Blue Flag" status have met criteria, due to litter, poor water quality and other issues.
In Morocco's commercial capital, netizens post on a "Save Casablanca" Facebook page. "The people are disgusting," one post says; "there is no environmental policing," laments another.
Water quality suffers due to garbage>Volunteers say Moroccans dump refuse at beaches and sea without a second thought.
>Visitors leave empty bins, cigarette butts and other trash on beach.
>A ban on plastic bags imposed in 2016 appears to have done little to stem the tide.
>Only 21 out of 40 beaches meet the criteria set for 'Blue Flag' status.