AFP: Massive clean-up drive in Latvia, Lithuania



RIGA (AFP) – Latvians and Lithuanians turned out in tens of thousands Saturday to clean up their Baltic nations as part of theinternational Earth Day environmental campaign, organisers said.

Preliminary estimates suggested that more than 100,000 volunteers participated in Latvia's "Great Clean Up" project.

Organisers in the country of 2.3 million were unable to immediately say how much trash was collected, but expected almost double last year's total of 260,000 bags of garbage collected by 50,000 people.

"The hope is that we'll make Latvia the cleanest country in the world in 10 years," event organizer Vita Jaunzeme told AFP, explaining the goal of making Latvia a trash-free zone by 2018 for the 100th anniversary of its independence.

Latvian President Valdis Zatlers and Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis also rolled up their sleeves Saturday to gather garbage.

In neighbouring Lithuania,"Let's Do It" clean-up organisers estimated Saturday that 50,000 of the country's 3.4 million citizens pitched in to collect up to 10,000 tons of garbage.

Earlier the organising committee called on Lithuanians to help map out illegal dumping sites in woodland and other non-residential areas, a habit developed in Soviet times.

Just 18 years ago Latvia, Lithuania and fellow Baltic state Estonia were part of the Soviet Union. After breaking free from the crumbling USSR in 1991 they joined the European Union and NATO in 2004.

International Earth Day, marked on April 22, is designed to inspire environmental awareness on a global scale.