“If you’re looking to soak up some sun in the Maldives, this isn’t the island you want to be on”

The Maldives’ five-star resorts have turned the Thilafushi reef into a seven-kilometre long dumpsite, Al Jazeera has reported.

“Environmental activists say the bad practices adopted there are causing contaminants to seep into the Indian Ocean nation’s once pristine sea water, and then into the food chain,” journalist Steve Chao reported.

“If you’re looking to soak up some sun in the Maldives, this isn’t the island you want to be on.”

Now a dumpsite for the country’s 1200 islands, Thilafushi hardly resembles the unspoiled coral reef it was 20 years ago, Chao reports, with little of the waste recycled, composted or treated as required by law.

“Nobody is managing this – the tourism industry is not ethically or morally doing their work,” a Maldivian environmental activist tells the news network, adding that every tourist to the country generates 7.2 kilograms of garbage a day.

“The only treatment the mountains of trash gets is Bangladeshi wokers picking through looking for recyclables goods to sell,” Chao reports. “We learn they are also paid by the government to burn the garbage, sending untold toxins into the air. We’ve been here only a few minutes but already the smoke is stinging the eyes and there’s an acrid taste in the mouth.”

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam claimed the international community had for years promised to build proper facilities to handle the waste, “but the world does not wiit for these proceedures and processes to be completed. I think this needs to be fast tracked.”

“Although the Maldives is one of the top destination for international tourists, the country remains very poor,” Chao noted.


19 thoughts on ““If you’re looking to soak up some sun in the Maldives, this isn’t the island you want to be on””

  1. A really very disturbing place. This has been going on for decades.

    I don't think building an incineration facility needs large scale international involvement that the Minister was talking about. We have enough engineers and trained technical people who can design an effective incineration system. Sure enough, we'd need some capital, but not so much that we need to maintain these 24/7 open fires churning untold amount of toxins into the environment.

  2. wonder if this island was featured in The Island President? (www.theislandpresident.com)

  3. Well, we did wonder where the waste went..now we know. This is a nightmare, maybe the government should get a grip of this and enforce the law as a first step. It must be easy enough to trace consignments of waste back to their resort island sources. Burning plastics in the open like this is a dangerous practice.

  4. 'international community had for years promised to build proper facilities to handle the waste'. Hmmmm...... you should go to the owners of the resorts and sure you will find more than enough money to build proper facilities to handle the waste. It's too easy always to cry how very poor Maldives still is. Might be as well a matter of distribution.

  5. Where's Ben Plewright with his "poor Maldivians" comments? Hasn't read this yet, or maybe this isn't politically charged enough for him huh?

    But leaving that aside, the case of Thilafushi and literally hundreds of other waste dumps around the country is something all Maldivians need to deal with, especially the govt.

    And contrary to what the esteemed Minister may say, this isn't about lack of funding. It's a lack of understanding and information regarding this sort of thing that is prevalent all across the country.

    And this has nothing to do with resorts, becos most of the resorts are pretty responsible with their waste, recycling waste water into treated water for use in flushing toilets, watering gardens and the sort, along with incinerating most of their other waste as well.

    The waste you will find in Thilafushi and other dumps are the waste from our homes. The hundreds of tons of waste we Maldivians throw away everyday, which include batteries, used cans of bug spray, motorcycle parts, and even broken televisions and other electronics find their way to these places becos we lack the understanding about the consequences of our actions or lack the will to do the harder thing of actually separating our waste in an orderly fashion.

    And the govt, both the previous and current one, have failed with their policy of talking about the environment while completely ignoring the white elephant that is our waste disposal system. The minister really cannot expect anyone, local or foreign, to believe that this cannot be resolved due to lack of funding from the international community as he states, while the govt keeps embarking on larger and more ambitious mega projects around the country. If they can sign MOUs to develop pilot projects for alternative energy, I bet you anything that they could find a party to develop a recycling plant at Thilafushi, provided they cared or tried. Failing that, the govt could provide a sovereign guarantee to Thilafushi Corporation to find funding to establish a proper waste disposal system, including recycling.

    I've said it before, I'll say it again - We talk the talk, but we rarely walk the walk. Especially when it comes to the environment.

    And before anyone says I argue a point without providing a reasonable solution, here are a couple of suggestible solutions.

    1. Refer to above regarding Thilafushi Corporation and funding for a proper waste disposal system.

    2. Implement an Environment Tax on businesses, especially resorts, and use the proceeds to fund a waste disposal system.

    3. Implement a system where certain products which would find themselves at a waste dump within a short period of time are charged an extra duty during customs clearance and use the proceeds towards creating a better waste disposal system.

    4. Implement an educational programme at all schools nationwide to teach the next generation about proper waste disposal and environmental care and the possible consequences of hazards to the environment. Educate them now, and they won't make the same mistakes the previous generation did.

    Those are four very achievable propositions there that we can do, some in the very near future, others perhaps in the longer term near future.

    And we won't have to wait for the international community to step up. Cos they won't, since they have their own problems without having to worry about ours too. And perhaps if we started on our own project and took the initiative, then they might possibly help more quickly than if we just expected the Great White Man to help us "poor Maldivians" as Ben Plewright so likes to call us.

  6. PS. Hey Al-Jazeera, get your facts right before you start reporting. Responsible journalism is the key here. Cheers.

  7. Hello my Maldivian friends,,recycling is big business in the UK,with most of the recycled stuff going to China..Now you are a lot nearer to China than us in the UK,so whats the matter.A nice very large building,a team of people sorting/baling the paper/plastic/metal,the rest composted and used for your agriculture..Sounds easy,,I bet some big Maldivian businessman is just waiting for a large lucrative subsidised contract from the government..Get yourselves organised and get a community contract to do just what i've suggested..Keep the money on the islands and not in someones offshore bank account...

  8. Just in case people have not been listening to the news the government has just last contracted thillafushi waste management to an Indian and German partnership. This was after 2 years of due process of finding a competent party. The process was handled by IFC. The IFC and government had to slow down the process many a time because of certain laws like the decentralization law brought in changes which had to be reconsidered. Also those of you thinking that exporting stuff for recycling is the easy solution try doing the math on that including freight charges.

  9. Instead of giving Reeko Moosa USD 21 million the company should have spend the money on creating a proper waste disposal system.

    Maldives is not a third world African country that need foreign money to do every little thing in this country as we can see when it came to giving Reeko Moosa the project.

  10. @Zayd

    Spot on. Lots of talking, no action. And you know why? Because it's the talk that gets you front page coverage, not the walk. Under water cabinet meetings my foot, what hypocrisy!

  11. i thought Maldives have laws that says each resort should have their own incinerators.

  12. @Zayd

    your exactly the kind of guy, big mouth with nothing to show.

  13. WASTE-NOT,,just offering an idea,,did not know that an outside company had signed a waste-disposal contract..Only thing,,I am sure subsidy is involved and the 'major money'will not benefit the islands but dissapear offshore..Its shame but a fact of life in the business world..

  14. Geordie, Maldives may be nearer to china than uk, but it's a bit silly to think a country of a mere 300,000 can interest waste in a quantity to interest china. Thillafushi as a principle is not a bad solution for this country, it just needs to be managed properly........maybe Annie should appoint another uk buddy as CEO thilafushi and they will teach us savages maldivians how to do things the British way

  15. Mithuru,,things are always easier to do and problems are always easier to solve with that magic word hindsight..Planning and good management in the early stages would certainly have helped the situation.Maldivian savages,,you will never hear me say that about the Maldivian people and if you ever come to the UK,I will offer you my hospitality and whilst you are here I will show you small scale recycling which is very profitable..

  16. the ugly truth, we are dependent on income generated from the tourism industry....

  17. A minister of a country is seeking for international help to treat the garbage that is produced in his country? This summarizes the whole story of Maldives-The Sunny Side of Life


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