Is the Maldives really an ideal poster boy for climate change: Asia News Network

Anyone who has been to the capital Male’ would have an impression that all the country’s efforts to combat climate change are doomed to fail, writes Jofelle Tesorio in Asia News magazine.

“Even the basic element of sanitation in this crowded capital seems wanting. There are no trash bins on the island and the streets are littered with plastics, bottles and other rubbish. The heavy use of bottled water is owed to the fact that the country doesn’t have its own water source. Water comes from desalination plants.

“Unabashed building constructions continue and there is no indication that the residents are willing to give up on
using smoke belching motorcycles and cars because they are seen as status symbol. In fact, despite the narrow streets, choking parking areas and high import tax on vehicles, people still buy cars and motorbikes.
“Only migrant Bangladeshis use bicycles, which is usually a source of mockery among Maldivians. Male’ doesn’t have a centralised sewage treatment plant that cleans the sewage before pumping it out to the sea. This scenario is definitely in contrast with the overall perception of the Maldives as a premier high-end destination with pure and pristine nature.

“About 330 tonnes of garbage make it to Thilafushi Island, known as the ‘Rubbish Island’, each day. Only a handful of the 190 resorts in the Maldives have their own recycling facility and sewage treatment plants.”

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Doctor WHO: Celebrating World Health Day in Malé this weekend

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is celebrating World Health Day today with activities around the world, and the theme “urbanisation and health” which aims to improve urban equity gaps, the leading cause for many health problem’s in the world’s poor according to the WHO.

Past themes have been “working together for health” in 2006 which focused on the health workforce crisis; “international health society” in 2007, aiming to improve the first line of defence against public health emergencies; “protecting health from climate change” in 2008, which looked at the effects of climate change on vulnerable populations; and “save lives, make hospitals safer in emergencies” in 2009.

This year’s campaign 1000 cities, 1000 lives is bringing attention to the issues of urban health. The WHO believes “urbanization is one of the major threats to health in the twenty-first century.”

Urban health

Although the WHO recognises urban environments can provide “great opportunities for individuals and families to prosper,” they can also harm our health in many ways, if the infrastructure and lifestyle in these urban sectors aren’t improved.

Some of the challenges the WHO cites as being problematic in urban areas are “overcrowding; air pollution; rising levels of risk factors like tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol; road traffic injuries; inadequate infrastructure, transport facilities, solid waste management systems; and insufficient access to health facilities in slum areas.”

According to the WHO, more than half of the world’s population now lives in urban areas, something that has never before happened in our history. They note that about 34% of the total population of the WHO’s South-East Asia Region is urban.

This year’s World Health Day aims to promote finding solutions to the roots of urban health issues and to “build partnerships with multiple sectors of society to make cities healthier.”

But improving urban sectors does not just benefit health, but is an economically sound proposal. The WHO estimates that “every $1 spent on sanitation gives a return of US$ 9.10 in terms of prevention and treatment of illnesses. Improved transportation, infrastructure and greener technologies enhance urban quality of life, including fewer respiratory ailments and accidents and better health for all.”

WHO Representative to the Maldives Dr Jorge Mario Luna says the solution to many of the health issues exacerbated by overcrowding, pollution, inactivity and unhealthy diets, violence and injury is proper urban planning.

“Proper urban planning can promote healthy behaviours and safety through investment in active transport, designing areas to promote physical activity and passing regulatory controls on tobacco and food safety. Improving urban living conditions in the areas of housing, water and sanitation will go a long way to mitigating health risks. Building inclusive cities that are accessible and age-friendly will benefit all urban residents.”

He added that “such actions do not necessarily require additional funding, but commitment to redirect resources to priority interventions, thereby achieving greater efficiency.”

Malé Health Fair

With this in mind, this year’s campaign is promoting ‘greener’ and healthier lifestyle options, which will be  showcased in Malé’s Health Fair, to be held on Saturday 10 April from 4:00-6:30 pm, and then from 8:00-10:30 pm in different locations around the city.

There will be activities held in Ameenee Park, Children’s Park, the Social Center, and other locations around Malé, Hulhumalé and Vilingili.

Some of the activities include free sporting events like dodge-ball and gymnastics; public awareness demonstrations on first aid and sanitation; food preparation counselling for kids; quizzes and puzzles; medical check-ups at ADK hospital; and distribution of information on living a healthier life.

On Friday 9 April there will be a ‘bicycle round’ where senior government officials and other volunteers will join in bicycle round of Malé.

The ‘round’ will start at the Artificial Beach at 4:00 pm and will follow a westerly route, for about half an hour, along Boduthakurufaan Magu, ending at Licence Sarahahdhu near IGMH.

A full schedule of events will be available at the WHO website and the Ministry of Health and Family website from tomorrow.


Police patrols now pedal powered

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) will begin using bicycles to conduct patrols, unveiling the new fleet yesterday on the 77th anniversary of the service.

The new bicycles were given a test run on the streets of Male’ during the inaugural ceremony by President Mohamed Nasheed, First Lady Laila Ali, Vice President Mohamed Waheed and Commissioner of Police Mohamed Faseeh.

Police Sub Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said the police bicycles would commence patrolling with the other police vehicles 24 hours a day.

”It is a new method of police patrol, like foot patrol,” Shiyam said.

Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair said that the new police bicycles would ease congestion on the streets and make it easier for police to patrol.

However, Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP and former minister for environment, energy and water Abdulla Mausoom said the new initiative proved the Maldives was “going backwards day by day.”

“This will make it easy for people to attack police,” he said, noting that Male’ was a “risky environment” and there had been an attacks on police last year.

The Maldives ”does not have to go back to the stone age to be a carbon neutral country,” he said.

Zuhair said the DRP were stuck in the past “and do not understand the new political environment.”

As well as a gesture towards the country’s ambitions to become carbon neutral by 2020, the government hopes the sight of police riding bicycles on the streets will set a precedent and inspire others to follow.