Authorities perservere in efforts to create a litter free Malé

As authorities continue efforts to eradicate littering from the capital city Malé, the council has today revealed the scale of the problem.

Statistics released by Malé City Council showed the litter collected on the streets of Malé on a single day amounted to nearly one ton’s worth.

Among the waste collected was 18,499 empty bottles of water, 1,868 bottles of soft drinks, 4,198 juice packets, 8,740 soda cans, and 8,384 empty cigarette packs.

“I would like to call upon those living in Malé to keep the streets clean,” said Director General at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Ahmed Naeem.

“It’s not just your homes you should clean for Ramadan. Malé is a small, congested island with a large number of inhabitants. Every one needs to do their bit to keep the island more habitable.”

Naeem stated that the amount of waste observed on streets has increased tremendously with the approach of Ramadan, during which household waste is expected to double.

Earlier in June, the council displayed a day’s litter collected from Malé’s streets – amounting to 1,600 large garbage bags – in an attempt to raise awareness of the issue.

“We are doing all this in the hope that seeing the amount of waste they are producing, the people of Malé will become more responsible and stop such actions,” said Malé City Mayor Mohamed Shihab.


Meanwhile, some locals continue to complain that, while the dustbins placed around Malé for public use are often “difficult” to use.

“Have you even gone near one of those bins? There’s rotting food and fish guts in there. It’s gross. I would much rather toss my soda can near the side of the street then go up to one of those bins,” 18-year-old Hawwah Nashwa opined.

Waheeda Ali, meanwhile, said that the dustbins are “always full that it is not worth the effort to walk a few blocks to find one”.

Mayor Shihab noted that the dustbins are meant for the disposal of waste produced while on the streets, like candy wrappers, soda cans, and so on, and not for household waste.

“People should not be disposing household waste in these bins. It is labelled clearly and people need to be more responsible. Household waste is to be disposed in the barge we have in the harbour for the purpose,” Shihab responded.

Another individual complained about there not being sufficient dustbins in the streets.

“You have to walk a dozen blocks to find one of those. No one is going to go to the trouble, not after a culture of littering has already set in to people’s mindsets,” said Jailam Ali.

“If the council can’t afford to place more dustbins, maybe they should make it mandatory for shops to place dustbins out on the streets near their establishments,” she added.

Mayor Shihab responded to these comments by explaining that too many dustbins has been seen to result in issues with the disposal of household waste.

Referring to this larger issue, Shihab stated that while the council is ready for implementation, the agreement with Tatva Global Renewable Energy remained on hold due to the Finance Ministry’s failure to sign the final approval.

Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad was not responding to calls at the time of press.

Fines for littering

Meanwhile, the EPA began imposing fines on those who litter on the streets of Malé City earlier this month – in accordance with new waste management regulations.

The regulation – which came into partial effect on February 5 – imposes an MVR100 (US$6.5) fine for littering and a fine between MVR10,000 (US$648.5) and MVR100,000 (US$6,485) if any authority in charge of public spaces fails to provide dustbins.

EPA Director General Ibrahim Naeem stated that so far the fine is only being levied against those who litter on streets of the capital. In addition to EPA staff, the police’s Environmental Protection Unit and the council itself are mandated to issue fines.

“We will begin implementing the other fines, and littering fines in other islands, when the councils and other relevant bodies become ready for enforcement. So far, it only applies in Malé,” he said.

Police media confirmed that they had begun implementation of the regulation, but were unable to provide statistics.

While not providing figures either, Naeem assured that many fines have been issued so far, and that positive effects can be seen in areas of Malé, especially around the local markets in Maafannu.

Naeem added that currently most of the fines have been levied against shops and vendors, instead of individuals.

“It’s far easier to fine shops who leave their garbage outside their shops than it is to catch an individual in the act of littering. But that is where we aim to go. We aim to reach the level where a person can be fined for throwing a tissue or cigarette butt on the street,” he continued.


Are efforts to keep Malé City clean going to waste?

“As we increase our efforts to clean Malé, the amount of garbage dumped on to the street is also increasing,” said Mayor Mohamed Shihab.

The purpose of cleaning Malé’s streets and providing public dustbins – for which 260 people are now employed – is not to collect household waste, but to clean up litter, the Mayor tells Minivan News.

It is important to cultivate a habit of keeping the streets clean and using trash bins in the community, he said, suggesting that the implementation of laws was also required to address the issue.

However, keeping the streets free from litter is just the tip of the rubbish pile explains Shihab, revealing the difficulties the council continues to face in finding a sustainable way to manage the capital’s waste.


The waste management regulation which came into partial force on February 5 imposes an MVR100 (US$6.5) fine for littering and a fine between MVR10,000 (US$ 648.5) and MVR100,000 (US$6,485) if any authority in charge of public spaces fails to provide dustbins.

The regulations also require boat owners to place dustbins on sea vessels, imposing a maximum fine of MVR100 million (US$6.5 million) on boats that dump waste into the ocean.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Ahmed Murthaza – assistant director at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – said that no one had yet been fined under the regulation.

The main focus of the EPA up to now has been to create awareness and to advise offenders to correct their actions, although he warned that the agency would start imposing the fines beginning on World Environment Day (5 June 2014).

The EPA will be working with councils and the Environmental Police Unit in implementing the regulation – all of whom are authorised to issues fines.

Waste management

Mayor Shihab has suggested a long term solution for the issue would be the door to door collection of household waste.

“This is is how it is done everywhere around the world. And in all countries, they charge a fee for the service.”

“So in the future the council will be collecting and disposing the garbage. This will be discussed. Even now each house is spending money, 100 or 200 rufiyaa, monthly for this purpose.”

Most households in Malé currently employ garbage collectors – usually migrant workers – who carry the garbage on their bicycles or private pick-up trucks. This garbage is then carried dumped on a barge in the island’s south-west harbor, which then transports it to the landfill ‘garbage island’ of Thilafushi.

This arrangement, however, was intended to be a temporary one initiated in 2013 after garbage piled up in Malé’s two primary waste yards following damage to the collection vehicles.

While the industrial junk yard is once again in use today, the household waste yard remains abandoned as its foundation structure is damaged to a point that it would be harmful for the environment to utilise the place without funding from a reluctant Finance Ministry, explained Shihab

According to the council, the current arrangement will remain in place during the Islamic month of Ramadan – beginning on June 30 – when the household waste produced can be expected to double.

According to shipping industry sources, an estimated 15- 20 percent increase in imported goods is expected during Ramadan.

Environment Ministry data from 2007 put daily food waste produced in Malé at approximately 25 tonnes, while 2012 statistics indicated that 89,797 tonnes of domestic waste was dumped on Thilafushi annually.

“Dumping waste on to the barge was a temporary measure, but this operation will continue in Ramadan with more barges. Instead of keeping a huge pile of waste in Malé, we will work to transport it as soon as possible,”  explained councillor Shamau Shareef.

Tatva solution

For the council, the immediate hope for a solution to Malé waste management is in India-based Tatva Global Renewable Energy.

The Tatva agreement has faced delays after the government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed renegotiated the agreement signed by his predecessor Mohamed Nasheed in 2011.

The new agreement, which will not include collection of garbage from household in its first phase, now requires the final approval of the Finance Ministry to begin operations.

Under the Tatva agreement, the council’s equipment – including trucks and excavators – has to be to handed over to Tatva in working condition. However, as the council’s equipment has been damaged for over a year, funds are needed for repairs before the handover.

“Our concern is that the government is spending MVR7 million [monthly] to rent this equipment, such as excavators, landing craft, and the barge. This money belongs to the people,” said Shihab.

Suggesting that the council could get the same results for just MVR2-3million, he said that the ministry had repeatedly ignored requests for repair funds.

The existing arrangement must be replaced with permanent and sustainable solution, said the mayor, noting that the smell alone from the garbage barge was becoming unpleasant for people living in the vicinity.

Minivan News was unable to obtain a comment from Ministry of Finance at the time of press.


‘Surfers against sewage’ shame city council over night market littering

Appalled by excessive amounts of garbage littering streets, nearby parks, and sea due to the Male’ night market, local surfers have staged a creative protest using the rubbish to pressure the city council into action.

The night market is held annually before Ramazan to provide people a plethora of affordable goods. Locally referred to as the ‘Ungulhey Bazaar’ – literally meaning the ‘rub up against someone market’ – the 10 day event draws dense crowds, and this year has a record-breaking 765 stalls representing 450 groups, according to local media.

Thousands of people shopping and eating amidst the hundreds of densely packed stalls generates enormous amounts of waste, which is pitched onto the streets or into the adjacent sea since there are no trash cans.

For the past three years the market has been located near ‘raalhugandu’, Male’s surf point, adjacent to the Tsunami Monument in Henviru ward.

Fed up with the pollution the “surfers against sewage” decided to take action.

“There are no dustbins so the rubbish ends up in the ocean and we don’t want that,” local surfer and Maldives Surfing Association (MSA) Spokesperson Ibrahim Riffath told Minivan News yesterday (June 11).

“It’s very bad, like a real slum,” said Riffath. “The Maldives is one of the most beautiful countries, but the sh*ttiest place.”

The wind carries the waste into the water and spreads it through the streets, so the bad storm that wreaked havoc on Male’ and the night market earlier this week exacerbated the problem, Riffath explained.

The surfers were in good spirits walking through the empty market stalls to collect trash – which was strewn over the ground – to reuse for their protest.

An impromptu improvisation about the waste management problem, sung by local surfer Ibrahim Aman to the tune of Pink Floyd’s the Wall, with accompanying lyrics “we don’t need no trash around us”, made the rubbish hunt a lively affair.

As did Aman’s poetry about inserting trash into a bin: “My name is dustbin and I’m always empty. My girlfriend’s name is garbage…”

The random rubbish pieces were arranged along the sea wall, hung from trees in the small park near ‘raalhugandu’, and piled next to protest boards in an artistic fashion.

Witty signs, banners, and graffiti expressed their frustration with the waste management problem: “Is this a pretty picture? Is this heaven on earth? Is this the garbage area? For an independent Dhivehi Raajje (Maldives) we need a clean Dhivehi Raajje.”

The lone trash can located near the park at the night market’s entrance was adorned with graffiti saying “What is this?”, while other ironic messages saying “thank you city council”, “welcome to paradise”, “sunny side” and “carbon neutral 2013”.

While most of the “surfers against sewage” are MSA members, their protest was not conducted as an official MSA initiative, but was rather spontaneous collective effort.

“MSA’s president wrote to the city council this year, but we have not yet received a reply,” said Riffath.

“The city council is saying they will have dustbins, but they have not yet done it and no one is coming to collect the trash,” he continued.

“They told us that this place, [the raalhugandu park], is not the road so it’s not part of their mandate to clean,” claimed Riffath.

“We are doing this for ourselves, the public and the environment,” he added. “People aren’t educated about why littering is so harmful.”

Be green and clean

“It’s not nice or hygienic,” local surfer Hamd Abdul Hadhi told Minivan News yesterday.

“Each stall should be responsible for keeping their area clean, daily,” he suggested. “If we were rich we would have bought the dustbins ourselves.”

“Most of the pollution from the market ends up in the sea,” he explained. “The trash hurts the fishes and corals, plus when we’re surfing and get a plastic bag stuck to our faces then we’re in trouble.”

Raising awareness about the link between human and environmental health is necessary to stop people from haphazardly throwing their garbage everywhere, which is why the surfers are leading by example, Hadhi noted.

“People are damaging mother nature so much with rubbish,” he said. “As surfers, we understand more than others and want to show people that it is good to be clean.”

“We clean the park and surrounding area two or three times a week, but no one else bothers,” Hadhi lamented. “And every night market we put up notices saying ‘do not litter here’.”

“It’s not just for our benefit, waste management is important for the whole country,” he said. “We are one of the smallest countries, so it’s crazy we can’t manage waste properly.”

“No one listens to us, so this [protest] is all we can do,” he declared.

Male’ City Council

“Of course this is a problem at the night market,” Male’ City Council (MCC) Mayor Ali ‘Maizan’ Manik told Minivan News today (June 12).

“I move around every day early morning and my goodness I know how bad it is,” said Manik.

“My secretary general will be arranging a meeting for this afternoon with the [protest] organisers and we will discuss waste management how we can reach a solution and solve this issue,” he added.

Manik explained that the Environment Ministry has been handling the waste management problem, but has not kept the MCC informed of what they are doing.

“Given the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) investigation into the [Tatva] contract we were asked to stop [waste management activities] until the inquiry was completed,” said Manik.

“I spoke with the Environment Minister and they are already approved to sign the [new] Tatva agreement, but before the council signs we have to know the changes they have made to the contract,” he noted.

“The Tatva discussion was already held and the original agreement was signed in November 2010,” he continued.

“Changes were already made to the agreement by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and World Bank, so there shouldn’t be [additional] changes, but the Environment has Ministry altered the contract,” Manik said.

“This is the kind of government we have, doing this to disturb us,” he added. “The waste management agreement should be made to benefit the public.”


Traders employees de-litter jetties 6, 7 for World Tourism Day

Traders Hotel Male’ employees welcomed World Tourism Day by cleaning jetties six and seven and surrounding areas last Tuesday, September 22.

The fifty employees who participated used brooms, gloves and bags to accomplish their mission. The team collected ten bags of litter from the streets and marine areas.

Traders Hotel said the activity “aimed to increase the awareness of the employees and local community about the importance of protecting the environment for a better quality of life. It also reinforced the hotel commitment to serve as a good steward of the environment.”


Solar-powered ‘clever bins’ to be installed in Male’

The Maldives is to install a series of high-tech, solar-powered ‘Clever Bins’ along the northern shoreline of Male’, the first public bins in the capital.

The bins, which were showcased on the popular UK television show Dragon’s Den, show display advertising on three sides of the contraption. The fourth side is a solar panel that charges a battery during the day, allowing the bins to illuminate the ads at night.

The bins will be situated along the shore from the area near President’s jetty to the area near the berth for the airport ferry, a strip where vessels commonly collect and deposit tourists from nearby resort islands.

The bins are already used in Hong Kong, Singapore, Italy, and several cities in the UK. Advertisers include the UK’s National Health Service and Apple Inc.

Announcing the decision today, Managing Director of the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation, Simon Hawkins, explained that the government would only pay the costs to ship the five bins from Singapore.

“Clever Bins will receive 80 percent of the ad revenue for providing the bins and technology, while we will keep the rest and divide it between the relevant stakeholders,” he said.

“This is not a profit exercise – the Maldives has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2020, and we are receiving more visitors to Male’ than ever before. The market has also shifted in favour of Asian visitors, who seek cultural experiences – a trip to Male’ can be a highlight, but they find it very frustrating when there is nowhere to put rubbish.”

Hawkins described the bins as “robust and vandal proof” to “British hooligan” standards – “they have them in Manchester,” he noted, adding the they would be in well-lit and trafficked areas right outside Male’s main police station.

Male’ City Council will be responsible for clearing the bins and provide a staff member who will be trained in their maintenance and upkeep, with spare parts available via courier. Clever Bins had a vested interest in keeping the bins functional, Hawkins said, as their ad revenue depended on it.

The MMPRC would sign a contract this week and the bins would be delivered in six weeks, he said, adding that he believed the advertising spots would be of interest to companies keen to show off both their high tech and environmental credentials..

Director of local environmental NGO Bluepeace, Ahmed Ikram, said that even if the bins were gimmicky “we would welcome them as it will help raise awareness that littering is a problem”, and said he hoped the program would lead to bins being rolled out to the rest of Male’.

“Before the 1970s much of our rubbish was biodegradable [and] thrown onto the beach or into the sea,” he said. “Since then we have developed rapidly and acquired modern goods, but it is still ingrained in us that littering is not a problem,” he said.

Last week the Environment Protection Agency (EPA)  blamed a surge of garbage floating in Thilafushi lagoon on “impatient” trash boats, which had begun to float out into the sea, and announced its intention to investigate 10 culprits.

Minivan News recently interviewed a visiting French tourist, Mary Kivers, who had spent several days visiting Guraidhoo and observed that garbage was “everywhere”.

“It’s funny because we who live abroad think that Male’ will be an example for the world about pollution and everything, since global warming is important here. But when you see the inhabitants in the Maldives, they put anything into the sea. It was funny, on Guraidhoo one of the girls had a diaper, and I asked her where she was going. She said, ‘I am going to the bin,’ and she went and threw it in the sea.”


Expatriate workers blamed for Male’s waste, claims councillor ‘Fly’

Villi-Maafannu councillor Ahmed ‘Fly’ Hameed has claimed that litter in Male is primarily caused by expatriate workers employed in shops.

Male’ City Council has discussed whether to take measures against the alleged culprits, Haveeru reports.

Hammed proposed designating supervisors to monitor the shops where expatriate workers are suspected of contributing to the litter. The council has also considered imposing a fine on those who leave their trash in the streets, reports Haveeru.

Recently, the overflow of waste at Thilafushi was found to be drifting into the open ocean after a change in tides. The EPA asked that everyone take responsibility for the issue.