Local environmental NGO Bluepeace has said that environmental issues, in particular waste management, cannot be tackled without empowering local authorities and the provision of technical expertise and funding.
Speaking to Minivan News about the organisation’s most recent endeavor – empowering local councils to manage waste locally -Executive Director of Bluepeace Ali Rilwan said the councils should have dedicated municipal workers and facilities in order to effectively manage waste.
“It cannot be achieved by a ministry located in Malé. There should be well trained technical personnel at the councils such as environment officers and fisheries officers,” said Rilwan.
Stating that the biggest obstacle to waste management at the moment is a lack of commitment from relevant authorities, Rilwan said that some projects – such as a World Bank scheme in the north – are slowly progressing.
In order to provide the councils with knowledge and technical assistance to establish integrated solid waste management programmes, Bluepeace has published a ‘Waste Management Handbook’.
According to the group, this book – published with assistance from the World Bank – consists of proven concepts and recommends the ideal ways to manage waste locally with minimum environmental damage.
The five focal areas addressed are waste-management plans, ordinances of the government and councils, enforcement mechanisms, easy disposal of waste, and the awareness and participation of the general public.
“It includes methods of waste reduction, reusing, recycling, composting. It covers the whole solid waste management regime at a local level, including how to measure and conduct research,” explained Rilwan.
2000 free copies of the book will be distributed to councils and libraries around the country following its launch as the Hulhudhuffaaru Island Environment Day event.
To increase public engagement in dealing with environmental issues, Bluepeace organised a public discussion on waste, an island clean-up program with Hulhudhuffaaru School students, and the planting of trees and coconut palms around the island.
To further engage the public and assist councils, Bluepeace will be conducting closely managed workshops regarding the implementation of the plans contained in the book and will provide assistance in areas such as placing waste bins.
A pilot workshop is to be carried out in Hulhudhuffaaru, Rasgetheemu, and Angolhitheemu islands and – based on its success – will be expanded to other islands.
“Even without a workshop, this is written in very simple Dhivehi language, and it is very detailed so that anyone can understand,” said Rilwan.
He noted that having a reference book would help in preventing practices damaging to the environment, noting that Bluepeace has come across islands where people have trie to reclaim land by dumping harmful waste into the lagoon, believing it to be an environmentally friendly method.
“This book is focused on managing waste at a local level, but it should be complemented with action at a national level. For instance, we imposed a very high duty on plastic products, but people are importing raw materials and producing plastic here. So this policy is not working and we don’t have any standard for the plastic used here.”
While toxic waste such as batteries should be destroyed in a specific way, Rilwan said that these things cannot be carried out locally and need to be done at a national level. He also said that currently no research or policies for waste management exists in the Maldives.
“Even if the law forbids littering, if there are no bins people will litter,” he said, referring to the new waste management regulation which came into partial force on February 5.
To acquire necessary facilities for managing waste, the Bluepeace handbook suggests collecting a small fee from each household, establishing an island waste management fund, making money from selling waste and organic compost, and charging businesses for using the local system.