The Male’ City Council (MCC) has disputed “inaccurate” local media reports that a large waste spill occurred in the Thilafushi (‘garbage island’) lagoon last night.
Large amounts of garbage were reported to have accumulated in the Thilafushi lagoon due to “spillover” while a barge was off loading waste from the capital Male’, according to Sun Online.
However, MCC Councillor Mohamed Abdul Kareem, the council member responsible for waste management, told Minivan News today (June 29) that local media reports were “not accurate” and that no garbage spill occurred on Thilafushi last night.
“Due to the bad weather this past month the jetty was damaged – half of it was broken and it has been damaged for two weeks – however repairs were completed yesterday,” Kareem explained.
“Earlier this month because of the high winds, some waste was carried into the harbor, but not a big amount,” he added. “There was no spill, it’s not an issue.”
Kareem explained that trash tends to “line the [harbour] area” and moves from one side to the other in relation to the wind, current, and tides, however due to the harbor’s shape does not easily float out into the open sea.
“Thirty vessels dump trash there daily, so there might be something in the area, but it’s a dead end,” said Kareem.
“Items have been floating [in the harbor] over a month, but there was not a big spill or dump,” he noted.
Senior officials from the MCC were sent to inspect Thilafushi last month and confirmed operations were “very organised”, according to Kareem.
“Cleaning [waste that accumulates in the harbor] is ongoing,” said Kareem. “The area is well maintained by the Male’ City Council.”
Thilafushi rehabilitation stalled
Thilafushi management was transferred to the Male’ City Council (MCC) in 2010 as part of the Decentralisation Act. Accordingly, a contract was signed in 2011 with the Indian-based company Tatva Global Renewable Energy to rehabilitate the island, manage garbage generated in Male’, on nearby inhabited islands and resorts, as well as implement a system designed to generate power from recycling waste.
However, President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik’s administration announced it was renegotiating the Tatva agreement in December 2012 to reach what Environment Minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela referred to at the time as a “mutually beneficial” agreement.
In response the Male’ City Council (MCC) accused authorities of trying to “sabotage” the deal.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Environment and Social Safeguards Coordinator Ibrahim Mohamed told Minivan News earlier this year that plans to rehabilitate Thilafushi have been stalled due to procedural “hiccups”.
“The World Bank (WB) is not happy, because Thilafushi is not a managed site,” said Mohamed. “There were hiccups in environmental safeguards.”
In order to ensure waste management on Thilafushi adhered to proper environmental safety standards, the government has been seeking assistance to rehabilitate the island.
“During the public private partnership that was [previously] announced, Tatva was contracted to do a proper landfill and incinerator, etc. They were investing US$15 million, but then when the government changed [in February 2012] there were hiccups in all these public private partnership contracts, and they left,” recounted Mohamed.
He explained that Tatva was ultimately brought back to negotiate a new contract.
“First there was the idea of throwing them out, but then [Tatva was] brought [back] in and told to sell some shares to local companies, i.e. water and sewerage. [So] they finally agreed to form a consortium with local companies and invest,” Mohamed continued.
“Within next two years we will see a better, rehabilitated facility [at Thilafushi],” he added.
While Thilafushi waste management remains a contentious issue, other projects are being implemented in Raa and Ari Atolls – funded, respectively, by the World Bank and Climate Change Trust Fund (CCTF) – in an effort to develop alternative processing sites.