A new environmental NGO based on Kudafari in Noonu Atoll was officially inaugurated on Thursday the former Youth Minister Hassan Latheef.
The organisation, Kaanu Green Peace, was created by a team of young volunteers in June this year, out of a desire to do something to help their local environment.
A number of environmental initiatives were launched as part of the event, the culmination of weeks of work by the committee and volunteers. Dozens of banners around the island displayed environmental and civic slogans in both English and Dhivehi, from “Be proud of my island” to “Freshwater aquifer depletion threatens water supplies”.
The island’s street lamps were switched off for the evening and all roads lined with coconut-shell lamps. A procession with bodu-beru drumming conducted the guest of honour to a new public square opened earlier in the day, in remembrance of the late mother of Ali Mauroof, one of Kaanu Green Peace’s founding patrons.
The most eye-catching scheme launched at the event was the island’s new ‘Green Transport’ initiative. Bamboo cycle racks have been erected at 8 points around the island (more are planned), and 30 cycles donated by sponsors. Anyone can use a cycle freely at any time, taking it from one of the special racks and leaving it at another. In return, explains Sehenaz Moosa of the organising committee, it is hoped residents won’t feel a need to introduce polluting vehicles such as motorcycles to the small island of 740 people.
Another initiative launched was a grass-covered ‘green avenue’, an experimental alternative to the sand roads elsewhere, of which construction is under way. The avenue will lead to two new island resorts, among the first resorts on local islands in Maldives, including Green Village, owned by Mauroof, which aims to use eco-friendly construction techniques. Hassan Latheef ceremonially planted a tree in the avenue before inaugurating the cycle scheme by riding the first bicycle between two of the pick-up points.
In another initiative, a local community award was inaugurated in memory of Yusuf Kaleyfaanu (Kudafari Kaleyfaanu), Mauroof’s late father, commemorating his service to the environment and to the development of Kudafari during his 60-year rule as Katheeb or Island Chief. The first Kaleyfaanu Award was given to Mariyam Ibrahim, a founder of the Kudafari women’s committee and long-time active community volunteer.
A temporary jetty with a stage had been built, from which Latheef addressed the crowded beach. He said that environmental challenges do not exist in isolation from other policy areas such as economic, social, and educational questions. He cited recent findings of the ILO that a ‘green economy’ can out-compete a traditional economy, and said the MDP manifesto will include measures to subsidise green initiatives and create ‘green jobs’, tackling unemployment as well as environmental problems.
“Not all problems can be solved by government,” explained Sehenaz. “We believe environmental problems also call for local action.”
She expressed a hope that Kaanu Green Peace’s brand of localism would take root and that the organisation will spread and help train volunteers on other islands.
Though officially launched yesterday, Kaanu Green Peace already has some ongoing projects, notably the setting up of dustbins in the streets in an attempt to get a grip on the problem of waste management that plagues Kudafari as it does the rest of Maldives. They hope to get a crusher with which to compact metals for resale and plastics to send away for recycling or disposal.