The Ministry of Finance has agreed to provide Male’ City Council (MCC) with an estimated MVR 7 million (US$454,000) in funding this month to try and alleviate a build up of waste in and around the capital that local councillors and MPs claim poses a “national disaster”.
Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad told Minivan News today that amid concerns about a build-up of waste in the capital, funding was being granted to the MCC to deal with the situation following an ongoing dispute over responsibility for managing garbage. The Finance Minister said he was unaware of the exact amount of funding provided to the municipal council at time of press.
The funding was announced as the MCC continues to accuse some state officials within the current government of having failed to provide it with a budget to deal with waste management for over a year in an attempt to discredit the work of its councillors. The majority of the MCC’s councillors are represented by members of the opposition Maldivan Democratic Party (MDP).
According to Jihad, funding will be provided to the MCC ahead of the expected signing over the next three weeks of a renegotiated waste management contract with India-based Tatva Global Renewable Energy. Once the deal is agreed, Tatva will take over handling of waste in the capital, as well as from nearby inhabited islands and resorts properties.
The previous government of former president Mohamed Nasheed had signed an agreement with Tatva in May 2011 as part of efforts to generate power from recycling waste gathered from Male’, as well as surrounding inhabited and resort islands.
By December last year, President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s administration had announced it was in the process of renegotiating Tatva’s agreement in a bid to replace the deal with what Environment Minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela at the time called a “mutually beneficial” agreement.
Minister Jihad has said that although the new agreement with Tatva has yet to be signed, a deal was expected to be finalised this week, while funding would also be given to the MCC to try and alleviate the waste issue in the meantime.
State Environment Minister Abdul Matheen Mohamed said that while his department was not directly involved with dealing with the waste management issue, it had tried to “help” find a solution by meeting with the MCC and the Finance Ministry.
Matheen added that the ministry had informed the MCC that if it was unable to handle the capital’s waste management, the Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) could take responsibility for the matter until the new Tatva contract was expected to come into place on June 15 this year.
However, following discussions with the MCC, he claimed that a lack of finance has been identified as the key issue preventing processing of the waste.
According to Matheen, the Finance Ministry last week agreed to provide MVR 6.8 million (US$441,000) in funding to the MCC, with the council in return giving “confirmation” that a clean-up operation would be undertaken.
“The MCC have said they will be able to clean up the waste if we can provide finance. However, we are still seeing things are not going well,” he claimed.
Matheen also rejected allegations by the MCC that the government had sought to purposefully undermine the council and its work by not providing funding to oversee waste in the capital.
“The ministry respects local councils and we will help them when needed. So far we haven’t received any additional requests for help [from the MCC],” he said.
Clean up challenges
Male’ councillor Mohamed Abdul Kareem today confirmed that the Finance Ministry had agreed to provide funding to cover the MCC’s outstanding debts for equipment hire and other costs related to handling waste.
However, he alleged that following the initial signing of the Tatva waste management deal under the previous government in May 2011, the MCC had not been provided with a budget for waste management – even after the deal was stalled by the present administration.
“As the MCC does not have its own bank account, we are required to deposit our revenue to the government’s own finances,” Kareem said. “While we are collecting revenue from resorts for dealing with waste, we are not directly receiving the funds.”
Kareem claimed that the issue of waste around the capital had become increasingly severe in the last three to four weeks as a result of both ongoing financial limitations and recent adverse weather that prevented barges being able to transport waste.
Kareem added that with the council’s waste areas filling up rapidly in the capital and a limited access to heavy equipment to process garbage, the situation had escalated into a “disaster”.
He said that following meetings with the finance ministry this month, funding had now been obtained, with the majority of the money expected to cover outstanding debts resulting from having to hire specialised equipment to process and transport the waste.
Kareem told Minivan New that efforts were now underway to secure the services of special dhotis to try and shift waste over to the nearby island of Thilafushi, which serves as the country’s key site for processing and burning garbage.
“We are discussing at present hiring a number of 100 foot-long dhonis to try and transfer the waste as it has been there so long, which makes things more difficult. Just last night we transferred 29 truck loads [of garbage] to Thilafushi.”
Councillor Kareem said he did accept that there were some parties within President Waheed’s coalition that had shown an interest in trying to resolve the waste management problem, but accused other representatives in the current administration of lacking sincerity in their commitments.
Kareem said the MCC presently understood that Tatva Global Renewable Energy was now expected to take over responsibility for waste management later next month at part of a deal with the government that would require the council to hand over all its facilities to the company “free of charge”.
“They will have to clean up the capital’s waste, though we will be expected to provide our facilities to them as part of the concession agreement,” he said. “It’s not an ideal situation, but we don’t have any other options at present.”
With funding now agreed, Ahmed Nihan, Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP for Vili-Male’, said residents on the island remained concerned this week about the potential health implications of a build up of garbage on a barge near to the island.
Nihan joined an estimated 50 residents from the island on Friday to protest about a perceived lack of action from both the state and the MCC to try and resolve the issue.
Before leaving Male’ for campaigning purposes yesterday, he believed there had been little change in the situation, despite being informed of efforts by the MCC to try and secure the services of dhonis to try and ship the waste away from the island to Thilafushi.
“I have been asked to host a conference called between the finance Ministry and the MCC on my return to find a solution to the issue,” Nihan said. “It’s all a big mess.”