Male’ City Council has banned waste dumping at Thilafushi, commonly known as ‘garbage island’, until the current overflow has been cleaned up and boats can access the appropriate dumping areas.
“We decided to ban all the parties from dumping waste until we draft regulations and devise policies on dumping waste,” Councillor Ibrahim Shujau told Haveeru News yesterday.
He explained that parties bringing waste from place other than Male’ would be allowed to dump in designated areas only after a cleaning operation had been carried out and new regulations published.
Minivan News was unable to reach Shujau at time of press.
Tourism Ministry Deputy Director General Moosa Zameer Hassan said the temporary closure “can’t go on for long,” and hopes to re-open the area by the weekend. “But boats will be monitored to ensure they follow procedures,” he added.
Hassan said “waste being brought to the site is not properly put into the collection area–many boats are impatient so they dump their waste outside of the designated area. Now boats cannot access the collection area.”
Thilafushi accommodates only a few boats at a time for dumping. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) director Ibrahim Naeem earlier said that limited capacity was pushing boats to break the rules.
“The mechanism for waste collection and disposal needs to be improved,” he said previously. “The EPA has to do some work on the matter, and the people who are bringing in the garbage and contributing to its buildup also need to take responsibility.”
Naeem today reiterated that the solution lay with management.
“The City Council has to be more active in getting the necessary equipment and budget to manage waste disposal,” said, adding that boats should also be more patient even in queues one to two hours long.
This is the third time in three months that reports of free-flowing waste have come out of Thilafushi, Naeem notes. Hassan said transferring Thilafushi management to the City Council as per the Decentralisation Act has affected operations.
While City Council does not have sufficient capacity to fully support Thilafushi operations, solutions including splitting the cost of waste operations and utilities among users have been agreed upon. They will be implemented at a later date.
Naeem said an Indian company had been contracted to manage waste disposal, and had submitted its Environmental Impact Assessment. “But we don’t know when that will start. There are deadlines, but I think [the council] is a bit behind,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Council is trying to manage the situation effectively in the short-term.
Among the parties implicated for the waste overflow were resorts, which lean heavily on Thilafushi’s services.
“Right now the issue is about management at Thilafushi,” said Hassan. “Of course there are issues with resorts but they are indirect, such as with transfer boats from outsourced parties.”
Hassan said that tourism regulations require resorts to have an Insinkerator system, a bottle crusher and compactor, and a long-term oil storage system. “Most resorts have the mechanisms but few use them,” he said. “Up until lately Thilafushi has worked well, so there was less incentive to operate their own machinery.”
Incinerators create smoke, and operating the machines is high-cost and highly specialised, Hassan explained. Resorts generally crush and condense waste, but “it’s not a total solution, it’s a step towards on-site management. Thilafushi is the ultimate destination,” he said.
The ministry today met with concerned parties, and enacted plans for immediate clean-up and to re-start operations. The EPA and the Environmental Ministry have agreed on the need to restore waste management operations as as soon as possible.
The clean-up operations will be overseen by Thilafushi Corporation and the city council.