Government terminates Tatva waste management deal

The government has decided to terminate the agreement made with India–based Tatva Global Renewable Energy to provide waste management services in the capital Malé and nearby areas.

A company source said that the cabinet’s Economic Council informed them last month, citing unfavorable relations with the city council and the government’s preference for a state-owned service.

Speaking to Haveeru today, Economic Council Co-Chair and Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb confirmed the move to terminate the contract.

“The current government is looking to completely solve the waste management problem in the next two years. The previous government talked a lot about environmental issues but there was no actual work done to solve the issues,” said Adeeb.

The termination marks the latest in a number of terminated or renegotiated contracts signed under the government of Mohamed Nasheed, while current President Abdulla Yameen continues moves to improve the country’s investment climate.

City Mayor Mohamed Shihab informed Minivan News that Malé City Council had not been consulted over the decision despite being one of the parties involved in the project.

“The city council will continue on its waste management operations like it has been so far. The work so far has been done by MCC and not Tatva and this will not lead to any differences in the short run, however we would need to start looking into long term alternatives again,” said Shihab.

The council – dominated by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – has this year introduced trash cans and fines for littering. Persistent conflicts with the central government, however, have continued.

The agreement with Tatva was presented as a solution to the capital’s ever-pressing waste management issues, with formal plans to generate power by recycling the waste and improving existing waste management systems.

However, the agreement faced delays following the fall of the MDP government in 2012, with renegotiations initiated as the new government of Dr Mohamed Waheed sought more “mutually beneficial” terms.

Mayor Shihab told Minivan News in May that the latest delay to the project involved the failure of the finance ministry to fund the repair of equipment required as part of the deal.

Investor Confidence

Similar problems have beset other Indian investors in recent years, with a US$190 million housing project in Malé by India’s TATA group delayed for more than two years pending renegotiation of the original terms agreed with Nasheed’s MDP government.

Shortly after the project stalled in 2012, officials from Apex Realty reportedly told Indian media of fears that local politics were derailing their investments in the Maldives.

Negotiations were concluded last month and the project resumed, with the Indian High Commission in Malé confirming that the deal now had “firm assurances from both Government of Maldives and TATA Housing”.

The most prominent Indian project curtailed by the change in government was the US$511 million lease to develop Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, terminated in November 2012 after the contract was declared void by Waheed’s cabinet.

After GMR challenged the legality of the move in a Singapore court of arbitration, the contract was deemed “valid and binding”, leaving the Government of Maldives liable for damages. Though the figure owed is yet to be determined by the court, it is expected to be considerably less than the US$1.4 billion claimed by GMR.

A 2012 report in India’s Business Standard brought forward concerns by Indian companies operating in the Maldives over political interference which they companies claimed is derailing their substantial investments in the country.

Since assuming the presidency in November 2013, Abdulla Yameen made the introduction of special economic zones the flagship of his legislative agenda, passing the SEZ Act in August.

With a minimum investment of US$150 million required for any investment projects in the special economic zones, Adeeb – also chairman of the SEZ investment board – has suggested that just one of the government’s proposed mega-projects could diversify the Maldives’ tourism-reliant economy.

While no major deals have yet been signed, a team of Chinese surveyors are expected in the country this week to carry out a survey for Malé-Hulhulé bridge – a project mooted by successive administrations.


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.”


Tourism head pledges action on waste management over fears for Maldives holiday image

The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture has pledged to take the “lead” in addressing waste management issues in Male’ should the city’s council and the Ministry of Environment and Energy fail to effectively deal with concerns about garbage.

Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb this week said that the issue of waste management posed an immense threat to tourism in the country, adding that his department would look to actively address the problem should other authorities fail to resolve ongoing concerns by next month.

The comments have been dismissed today as irresponsible by the Ministry of Environment, which favours greater levels of cooperation from Adheeb’s department and the wider tourism industry in how waste was dealt with in Male’ and the nearby island of Thilafushi.

Thilafushi, where the vast majority of waste from the country’s resorts and inhabited islands is deposed of, has become more commonly known ‘garbage island‘ by both local and international media.

Meanwhile, Male’ City Council (MCC) has alleged that it is not being provided sufficient funding from the 2013 state budget to deal with garbage levels in the capital.  This funding has been identified by the council as exacerbating the challenges it claims to be facing due to growing amounts of waste and outdated machinery used at the capital’s refuge sites.

This week, the council claimed it had been forced to shut one of the capital’s two waste disposal sites due to machinery at the site being inoperable – limiting the amount of garbage that can be handled at the site in recent days.

Taking the lead

On Monday (December 31, 2012) Tourism Minister Adheeb spoke of the present challenges facing waste management in the country, maintaining that a failure to try and solve current problems with the capital’s garbage would require his ministry to “take the lead” in clean up efforts.

Adheeb added that waste management was therefore expected to be a main focus of the Fourth Tourism Master Plan – scheduled at present to be released within the first quarter of 2013.

“One of the main issues which have a negative impact on the tourism industry at present is the issue of garbage: the sight of garbage floating in the sea, the sight of smoke from burning garbage as the flights descend to land. This has a very detrimental impact on value addition,” he stated.

According to Adheeb, user generated reviews on popular travel sites like TripAdvisor were now cautioning tourists to choose resorts where “smoke is not visible”, causing a loss to the many high-end resorts located near Male’ and Thilafushi.

“There is no way we can sustain tourism without solving the issue of waste management. We will wait till the end of February. If by then the Environment Ministry and the MCC are unable to deal with the issue, then we will take the lead, even if it means we will need to spend on it on a voluntary basis,” Adheeb said.

Waste management deal

The previous government of former President Mohamed Nasheed had signed a waste management agreement with India-based Tatva Global Renewable Energy back in May 2011 to implement a system designed to generate power from recycling waste.

The contract has been undergoing renegotiation with the current government as part of efforts to provide what it has called a more “mutually beneficial” agreement – a move slammed by the MCC, which had accused authorities of trying to “sabotage” the deal.

However, Adheeb this week was said he was critical of the effectiveness of previous methods of waste management being sought in the Maldives, as well as the attitudes of certain environmental activists.

“We need to learn to make do with taking just the basic steps. For example, when it comes to dealing with waste management, we aspire to turn it into gas or electricity immediately upon being burned, and then for it to be connected to Male’ and Hulhumale’ via submarine cables,” he said.

“Now if we are to have expectations as high as this, we will never be able to deal with the issue practically.”

Adheeb added that if people were concerned about the environment, they should equally consider the issue of waste management, claiming a failure to solve the issue would make it very difficult for the tourism industry to survive.

“Why not just take the basic steps and get rid of the waste?  Previous leaders have tried to make Maldives a leading name whenever the topic of environment comes up. But no real solutions were found in the past three or four years,” he said.

Adheeb also contended that the present focus of environmental activism within the country was proving detrimental to tourism development, as well as ignoring advances in construction techniques being used by the industry.

“From what we have seen, if we try to get an EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) done for the purpose of beginning construction of a resort, the environmentalists suddenly get very concerned. Or if we try to reclaim land, then again the environment becomes so very important. But Hulhumale’ and Reethi Rah Resort are very good examples. In Maldives, even through reclamation, we can make things natural,” he said.


State Minister for Environment and Energy Abdul Matheen Mohamed stated today that while waste management issues could pose problems for the tourism sector, he believed it could be better managed and solved faster if the Tourism Ministry would provide more cooperation on related work.

“I don’t think Adheeb’s statement on taking initiative in waste management is a very responsible one. Since a lot of resorts take garbage to Thilafushi and end up dumping it into the sea,” he claimed.  “We have approached the Tourism Ministry with plans to place Environment Officers in resorts to monitor this. It would be good if that ministry would cooperate a bit more than they do now.”

Matheen confirmed that the negotiations with Tatva over a new deal on the previously agreed waste management project had now been concluded. He said that a final decision would be reached after it is submitted for the Economic Committee’s approval this coming week.

Aside from future projects to better manage waste, Male’ City Councillor Mohamed Abdul Kareem today claimed that the municipal council has not been allocated sufficient funds for waste management work in the 2013 budget passed last month by parliament.

Karrem claimed that the council had this week already been temporarily forced to facilitate alternative methods of shifting large amounts of garbage after Waste Disposal Site Number 2 in the capital was closed owing to machinery failure.

“We have managed to reopen the site today, after having cleared up the place again. One of our biggest concerns for this year ahead of us is that the state has not provided our council with any funds to deal with this issue of waste management,” Kareem stated.


In a direct response today to Adheeb’s comments, Male’ City Mayor ‘Maizan’ Ali Manik alleged that the waste management issue had been delayed owing to negligence on the part of the current government.

“Adheeb belongs to the group of people who are extremely good at ‘taking over’ everything, so there is not much we can do if he ends up taking over waste management work. However, if all goes accordingly, Tatva will commence work in March,” he said.

Manik further stated that although it was MCC that had initially signed the contract with Tatva, the Ministry of Environment had now taken over and was proceeding with discussions with the company without involving the council.

Manik said that the council had had some discussions with the Ministry previously, where they had pledged support to the project.