Vendors turn Malé’s surf point into trash dump

Vendors have turned Malé’s surf point Raalhugandu into a waste dump after the biannual street market.

The two-week long market ended on June 13, but vendors left plastic, wood, cardboard boxes and pipes at Malé’s water front. The market organizer Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MNCCI) has not picked up the trash two days after the market ended.

Some 500 stalls were set up for the market.

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The dumping of trash at the surf point sparked outrage on Twitter.

The MNCCI’s Vice President Ismail Asif told Raajje TV that the clean-up effort had been slowed by difficulties in transporting and offloading the garbage onto barges that would carry the trash to the dump on Thilafushi island.

The Malé City Council is cleaning up the mess now. Councilor Shamau Shareef appealed to the public to join him in the clean up with “brooms, gloves and garbage bags.”

As the sun set, only migrant workers staff were seen cleaning the area. Much of the garbage has been cleared on the outermost Bodu Thakurufaanu Magu, but adjoining Ameenee Magu is yet to be cleaned.


What’s on sale? A night at Ungulhey

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Malé’s night market through photographer Munshid Mohamed’s lenses.

The biannual street market, dubbed ‘ungulhey bazaar,’ is known for large crowds and a variety of merchandise, including clothes, kitchen accessories and pets.


What’s on sale? A night at Ungulhey

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Malé’s night market through photographer Munshid Mohamed’s lenses.

The biannual street market, dubbed ‘ungulhey bazaar,’ is known for large crowds and a variety of merchandise, including clothes, kitchen accessories and pets.


Dhiraagu postpones road race

Telecommunications provider Dhiraagu has postponed its annual road race due to the extension of the ongoing night market.

The road race was due to take place on June 12. The opposition alliance is also planning to stage a mass protest in Malé on the same day.

Dhiraagu marketing director Ahmed Maumoon told the press last week that an experienced international organisation was tasked with setting the route for the race. The night market area is part of the designated route.

Maumoon said 3,000 people have registered to take part in the race.

Dhiraagu expects the race to be rescheduled for July as Ramadan begins later this month and the national athletics team will depart at the end of Ramadan for the Indian Ocean Games.

Maumoon said a new date will be determined in consultation with the organisers, partners, and foreign participants.

The road race is held each year to raise awareness of child abuse and domestic violence.


Man arrested for selling crosses

The police have arrested a vendor for selling Christian crosses at a street market in Malé.

In a statement on Monday night, the police said the 32-year-old man had been arrested under the 1994 Religious Unity Act for selling symbols of a religion other than Islam.

The police confiscated 25 small crosses from the stall. The crosses were pendants on necklaces.

The police said officers searched other stalls at the market for crosses.

The street market, known as the night market, is held twice a year in the capital Malé.

Islam is the state religion in the Maldives. The Religious Unity Act prohibits the import or distribution of idols for worship and symbols of religions other than Islam.

The commissioner general of customs can prevent the import of items that are related to worship in other religions even if they are not explicitly mentioned in the law.



Economic ministry takes over approving night market from city council

The Ministry of Economic Development has taken over authorising the annual night market from the opposition-dominated Malé City Council.

The ministry announced today that permission or approval for holding carnivals, fun fairs, promotional fairs, and night markets should henceforth be sought from the ministry.

Application forms would be available from the ministry’s website.

The move follows the cabinet’s decision to take over maintenance of the capital’s roads from the city council.

Earlier this week, the housing ministry signed an agreement with the Maldives Road Development Corporation (MRDC) for maintenance of drains of the capital’s roads and resolve persistence flooding during heavy rain.

The project involves cleaning the pavement drains as well as cleaning and repairing water pipes.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party-majority city council has been at loggerheads with the executive since the controversial transfer of presidential power in February 2012.

Earlier this year, the Anti-Corruption Commission alleged corruption in the awarding of a contract by the city council to Go Media for the organisation of the annual night market.


Night market contract terminated, ACC informs city council

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has informed Malé City Council that its agreement with Go Media Pvt Ltd for organising the annual night market in the capital was terminated last year.

In a press release yesterday, the commission noted that it had been informed by the previous city council on November 21 that the five-year contract with Go Media had been invalidated.

The ACC press statement comes after Go Media announced that this year’s night market will be held from May 1 to 10 at the tsunami memorial area with 460 tables and 62 tents.

Go Media General Manager Ibrahim Amir told local media that the company had not been informed of the termination, suggesting that this could only be done by a court following litigation.

The ACC has yesterday noted that it had received a copy of a letter sent to Go Media by the city council informing the company of the contract termination.

“And the council has been told that the commission believes that going ahead with the terminated contract would be unduly benefiting a particular party,” the statement read.

Go Media’s Amir revealed that 85 percent of stalls had been sold already, noting that preparations for the market were ongoing with the city council’s authorisation.

Mayor Mohamed Shihab meanwhile told the press that the night market will go ahead as scheduled as the council has not been ordered by any state institution to terminate the agreement.

The new council’s stance was to honour agreements entered into by the previous council, Shihab said, contending that the council could be sued if it terminated contracts on its own accord.

Shihab said, however, that the council would comply with instructions from relevant authorities to cancel any agreement.

“I am surprised that the ACC has not told us to terminate the agreement if there was corruption involved,” he was quoted as saying by newspaper Haveeru.

The mayor was unavailable for comment today.


Earlier this month, the ACC asked the Prosecutor General’s (PG) office to press corruption charges against three ex-councillors as well as three senior staff over alleged abuse of authority in the awarding of the contract to Go Media.

Following an investigation – prompted by a complaint filed in March 2013 alleging corruption in the bidding process –  the ACC found that Go Media Pvt Ltd was registered eight days before the city council’s announcement seeking a party to organise the night market.

However, the council awarded full marks to the company for experience during its bid evaluation process, the ACC revealed.

While the committee that evaluated the proposal determined that Go Media’s team had experience in organising such events, the ACC noted that the company did not submit any documentation as proof of experience.

Moreover, the council’s request for information document did not state that marks would be awarded for experience.

Of the three ex-councillors facing corruption charges, Ibrahim Shujau and Ahmed Hameed ‘Fly’ were elected on Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party tickets in 2011 before defecting to the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the Jumhooree Party, respectively.

The third ex-councillor – former Deputy Mayor Ahmed Samah Rasheed – was elected on an MDP ticket.

Shujau meanwhile contested in last month’s parliamentary elections as the MDP’s candidate for the Galolhu South constituency, losing to incumbent MP Ahmed Mahloof.

None of the 11 councillors of the Male’ City Council elected in February 2011 were re-elected in the second local council elections that took place on January 18.


Male’ surfers dump garbage outside city hall in protest over night market trash

A group of local surfers dumped a pile of garbage outside the entrance to Male’ City Hall today in a second protest aimed at preventing the waste generated by a night market held this month from polluting the Maldives’ capital city.

The rubbish pile was dumped at the MCC today (June 19) in an effort to pressure city councilors to organise a formal meeting with the group, so they can collaboratively prevent refuse from the ongoing night market event from polluting the area, the group claimed.

The rubbish was collected from roads around the market, known as the ‘Ungulhey Bazaar’, as well as the small park area local surfers refer to as ‘the garden’ located next to the capital’s ‘raalhugandu’ surf point in Henveiru ward.

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

Although the first protest did prompt responses from the Male’ City Council (MCC) and Go Media – the private company commissioned to organise the market – no formal meetings have yet been conducted to resolve the issue, Maldives Surfing Association (MSA) President Ahmed Fauzan ‘Karo’ Abbas told Minivan News today.

“We have tried to meet someone [from MCC and Go Media] and they have sent different representatives [to raalhugandu] to discuss the night market litter problem, but no one with decision making authority,” said Abbas. “Random people come but we don’t know who they are.”

“We have also previously sent complaint letters but no one has responded,” he added.

“I was [previously] told things would get better, but it’s getting worse,” he said.

The surfers today claimed that their second protest appeared to have been more successful.

“MCC has arranged an official meeting for Sunday (June 23), which will be attended by MSA as well as the Maldives Bodyboarding Association (MBBA),” said Abbas.

He added that although tonight marked the last night of the market, another event had been scheduled for October this year.

“We have told the city council we do not want the bazaar to be held here again. What the public is doing [throwing waste all over the area] is affecting our sport,” said Abbas.

Abbas explained that the raalhugandu area had a long association with surfing, adding that the excessive garbage – as well as advertising billboards erected in the area without consulting the community – all negatively impacted surf competitions held in the area.

“This is a public space and the public should be consulted before holding a big event [like the night market],” he said.

The MCC confirmed today that a first formal meeting with the MSA and MBBA is scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

“We scheduled the formal meeting to solve all the [garbage] problems and to discuss what difficulties they are facing due to the night market,” MCC Councillor Mohamed Falah told Minivan News today.

“I know that we have to solve the garbage problems very carefully,” said Falah. “I agree with their demands and that environmental problems are very important.”

“We will solve these waste issues at any cost,” he declared.

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, local surfer Hamid Abdul Hadhi previously told Minivan News.

“Most of the pollution from the market ends up in the sea,” Hadhi 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.”


‘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.”