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.

Responsibility

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.

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Government calls for Environmental Impact Assessment for new waste yard in Malé

Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure is seeking parties to conduct an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) to construct a waste yard on the south of Malé, local media have reported.

The Ministry will hold an information session on Thursday (May 8) for interested parties, who will be asked to submit the financial and technical proposals before 11:00 a.m. on 15 May, Housing Ministry said in an announcement on Monday.

In an effort to alleviate the long overdue waste management issue in the capital, the government is seeking to reclaim the lagoon area opposite Maafannu Stadium.

Waste is now collected on a barge docked near the Vilimalé ferry terminal, a temporary arrangement made after the City Council’s failure to empty the waste grounds in a timely manner, local media report.

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Rubbish fire smoke engulfs school, 50 students forced to seek medical attention

Children from Imaduddin School in Male’ were given emergency treatment today after they reported dizziness and nausea caused by smoke rising from a nearby rubbish dump.

Local media reported that smoke began to rise around 10:30am today (March 6), causing 50 students to seek medical care. A teacher was also taken to hospital after her health suddenly deteriorated.

Imaduddin School Principal Ibrahim Asif Rasheed told local media that the school has to cancel certain lessons when the wind is strong and facing in a certain direction.

According to the principal, the school was engulfed by smoke in the morning and that parents had been requested to collect their children who were suffering from the smoke.

After contacting the meteorological centre to clarify weather conditions for the next few days, Rasheed told local media that lessons will commence tomorrow.

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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.”

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Comment: Dengue fever, a problem for everyone

Although the MNDF has been drafted in to help combat the problem of dengue fever that is affecting Male and several other atolls, it is important that people don’t stand back and think that this action alone will solve the problem.

Experience in many other countries has shown that a ‘top-down’ or vertical campaign against dengue fever is only part of the solution to preventing outbreaks of the virus from getting worse.

Most people know that dengue fever is spread by a mosquito that takes the blood of an infected person. The blood contains a virus that causes dengue fever and this is passed on to a new person when they are bitten in turn by the mosquito. The mosquito seems fine – but people infected by the virus may become very seriously ill and a small proportion may die.

Most action to prevent the spread of dengue fever is aimed at the mosquito itself. If the mosquitoes are stopped from breeding then the transmission of the dengue virus from person to person will be interrupted and no new cases will occur. Often the strategy against the mosquito relies on spraying chemicals and treating water storage containers. But without having fully integrated community involvement, this strategy has failed almost everywhere in the world that it has been tried. The mosquitoes will always find ways to outwit their human adversaries unless locally tailored eradication programmes are implemented.

Community involvement is key to the success of the eradication programme and every member of the community should be involved in understanding the problem of controlling the mosquitoes (vector control). Within each community the local community leaders should be involved in forming a dedicated steering committee that can create formal task forces or community working groups that will undertake environmental management. The working groups will need to know in detail exactly what they are supposed to be doing and precise training sessions need to be organised. Every locality is different so each community task force needs to identify the exact local conditions in which their mosquitoes will be breeding. Precise local knowledge is the most important resource for beating the disease. In particular waste water needs to be evacuated efficiently; water pipelines and water storage containers must be protected and communal waste collection improved.

A research programme in Cuba compared the usual ‘top down’ ways of combating dengue fever with a community activist approach as described above. They found that the community based environmental strategy was much more effective that the usual eradication programme. You can read more about this research on:

http://www.bmj.com/content/338/bmj.b1959.full

Garbage: a special problem throughout the Maldives

The mosquitoes love little collections of water. When I was in the Maldives as a volunteer for the Friends of Maldives health programme I noticed that outside almost every house there is a little collection of garbage. This includes plastic drink containers, tins, discarded tyres, containers and invariably a pile of half coconuts. These are ideals breeding sites for the mosquitoes that carry dengue fever. Unless each and every one of these piles is cleaned up, dengue fever will continue to be a problem throughout the Maldives in urban and rural areas.

Mosquitoes love the little collections of water that form in garbage piles.

Dr Tom Heller is a Senior Lecturer in the Open University’s Faculty of Health and Social Welfare.  He has previously visited the country as a medical volunteer for the UK-based NGO, Friends of Maldives.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]

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Letter on Hulhumale’s rubbish

Dear Editor,

I spoke to the Municipal Section In-charge of the Hulhumale Development Corporation (HDC) regarding the waste dumped at various wastelands (unused goathi) of Hulhumale’, and also the waste dumped at the bottom of the beautiful bushes beside brand-new pavements.

I understand that the authority tried to solve this problem by keeping waste bins at various locations but failed to solve the problem because people started dumping household waste and waste from the shops, so that they stopped keeping the bins.

Similarly, I have seen very old sick people, with the family members’ support, boarding on MTCC Ferries and looking for a seat when there are seats reserved for them. Neither the captain nor the crew is able to help our beloved senior citizens or the sick, by letting them have their reserved seats on the ferry.

Since the authority for the Municipal Section of HDC is also the chairperson for Hulhumale’ Crime Prevention Committee working together with Hulhumale’ Police, I feel sorry that they had no solution other than to stop keeping the bins in public areas. I also feel sorry that the captains keep quiet, watching such inhuman scenarios, while he has the authority to question passengers who disobey rules like not purchasing a ticket before boarding the ferry and so on.

I think what’s actually happening is that the hospital has no concern over the issue because at the moment this waste has not caused an epidemic. Police have no concern over the issue because they feel people would not like them for interfering in their freedom to do whatever they want.

HDC has no worries over the issue because they get monthly rent from these wastelands, and they get no complaints from the public who believe they can do anything they want and it’s their freedom to do so.

I think all the government and non-governmental agencies must work together to strengthen the monitoring mechanism and action taking so that those who are responsible do their job in order to keep Hulhumale’ clean and attractive. A country can never afford to watch such scenario and wait until the issue becomes a difficult and expensive problem like drugs, murder and so on. As we all know, drugs and murder was not an issue here before but can we say it’s not an issue today?

So, why can’t we all join together to stop such crimes in our society before it’s too late?

Regards
Saeed

All letters are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write a letter piece, please submit it to minivan.n[email protected]

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Beautiful Fuvahmulah can’t see the beach for the garbage

He carefully loads the garbage into the boot of his car: it’s a mix of household waste.

“My mother composts all the food items in the backyard,” says Ahmed Ali, 30.

He drives to the dump site.

It is hard to miss; both sides of the road leading to it are lined with garbage, cans, plastic water bottles, paper waste, discarded household items, even a toilet seat. The entrance to the dump site is blocked by piles of garbage and overgrown bushes.

“I don’t want to dump garbage outside like this, but do I have a choice?” says a dejected Ali.

Sure enough, all three roads that lead to the dump site are lined with garbage on both sides.

A municipality worker comes by shortly with a rake, and carefully makes sure that no garbage spills onto the middle of the road.

Surveying the strewn garbage, it is easy to feel Ali’s dejection, after all this is Fuvahmulah; one of the most beautiful and fertile islands in the Maldives, and its unique ecosystem is being destroyed by waste.

Paradise lost: roads lined with rubbish
Paradise lost: roads lined with rubbish

Garbage dump or airport

“The 10,000 square feet dump site was built in 2003,” says Ahmed Mujthaba, councilor in charge of the Fuvamulah office. He adds that in 2006 the then government decided the same area of land was ideal to build an airport.

“It was decided that the dump site would have to be relocated and Mf600,000 was given as compensation by the government.”

It took one and half years for public consultation and to get an Environment Assessment Report (EIA) and approval from the housing ministry for the new location.

But no work has been carried out in the newly allocated dump site, located 200 meters from the existing dump.

Hassan Saeed, the atoll councilor, says a team from Environmental Research Center (now the Environment Protection Agency, or EPA) came to do a study in April 2008.

“They had a public consultation with the stakeholders and promised a ‘total waste management solution’ project that would take off in 2009.”

With no news from the EPA, Saeed contacted them in 2009 to be told that they didn’t have the necessary funds.

“We were told that the budget for it had been transferred to the newly created Waste Management Corporation (WMC) by the finance ministry.”

The WMC informed him that they hadn’t received any money for Fuvamulah.

Mohamed Zuhair, director general of EPA, says a study was done in Fuvamulah to try and develop energy from the waste but it was considered not feasible due to the small size of the population.

“We did have a budget under PSIP but that was taken from us and we can’t say for sure where it was transferred.”

Saeed says islanders who live in the vicinity of the proposed dump area also have concerns.

“They say how we can be sure people won’t dump garbage all over the place like they do now.”

They have agreed to the dump being built if the walls are 12 feet in height, the garbage is be segregated and if the latest equipment such as incinerators are brought in.

“Our funds are only enough to build a wall of three feet in height,” says Saeed.

He adds that a total waste solution is the answer and not just another dump site.

“There has to be household level sorting, ward collection points, a drive to re-use, re-cycle, and a way to export things that can’t be destroyed.”

The Women’s Development Committee is already sorting out garbage in their area, but it is proving to be futile as everything has to be dumped in the same area. Another NGO has proposed to provide bins in the famed beach areas in Fuvamulah, “but all that is useless, if all we are going to do is dump it at some site.”

Solutions

“It is not only Fuvamulah, almost all the islands of Maldives have a waste management problem,” says Ali Rilwan, executive director of NGO Blue Peace. He says it’s a serious issue and the lagoons of the Maldives are getting destroyed day by day.

“Does the environment ministry know what is happening in the islands? Do the councilors in the islands know that an EIA report has to be done for each project?” he asks.

He takes as an example the announcement by a councilor in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll Thinadhoo that they are going to build a dump site in the sea.

Zuhair says the EPA is working towards a national waste management solution.

“We are not only developing waste management centres with the WMC and Province Utilities Companies, we are working to find solutions – we also want to do public awareness campaigns and have regional waste management sites.”

However no project is planned in Fuvamulah at the moment. Zuhair says most islands do contact them and know that they have to abide by their regulations.

“We found out about the Thinadhoo proposal through the TV and are contacting them to talk about it.”

Rilwan says a drive to reduce waste also has to be done “to reduce garbage, lessen PET bottles, plastic waste, all of these non bio-degradable items.”

He calls upon the government to do more, saying all he has seen so far is the creation of two corporations and the president and environment minister participating in a garbage collection day.

While the relevant authorities search for solutions, the garbage in Fuvamulah and other islands continue to pile up and pose safety, health and social issues to the islanders.

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