“Descending by plane into the Maldives offers a panoramic view of azure seas and coral-fringed islands, but as the tarmac nears, billowing smoke in the middle distance reveals an environmental calamity,” writes the AFP.
“Thilafushi Island, a half-hour boat trip from the capital, is surrounded by the same crystal clear waters and white sand that have made the Indian Ocean archipelago a honeymoon destination for the rich and famous.
But no holidaymaker sets foot here and none could imagine from their plane seats that the rising smoke is the waste from residents and previous visitors being set alight by men like 40-year-old Fusin.
A migrant from Bangladesh, he is one of several dozen employees on “Rubbish Island” — the biggest waste dump in the country where he’s paid $350 a month for 12-hour shifts, seven days a week.
With no safety equipment bar a pair of steel-capped boots, he clambers over a stinking mountain of garbage, eyes streaming and voice choked after four years’ exposure to thick, toxic fumes.
Beneath his feet lie the discards of the cramped capital Male’ and the local tourism industry that has helped turn the collection of more than 1,000 islands into the wealthiest country in South Asia.”