“Ideal” time to invest, says MNCCI as Maldives Investment Forum approaches

With additional reporting by Daniel Bosley

“The last 3 years there has been a lot of turmoil, but now is the ideal time to invest and talk about business,” suggests Ishmael Asif, Vice President  of the Maldives National Chamber of Commerce and Industries (MNCCI).

In light of the upcoming Maldives Investment Forum (MIF) in Singapore, Asif told Minivan News that the Maldives can offer a secure political backdrop for any potential foreign investments.

“From the chamber, we would like to give a message to foreign investors that political tension is over and there is room for investments. Maldives always welcomes foreign investments.”

The forum – set to take place on Friday (April 25) at the Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore – will aim to increase the interest of Asia-region investors, and will be the first forum of such a scale to be hosted by the Maldives in another country.

Investors will have the opportunity to submit proposals for five mega projects, including the following – whose details have been provided by the Ministry of Economic Development:

Ihavandhippolhu Integrated Development Project (iHavan) – This project aims to capitalise on the US$18 trillion worth of goods that pass through the channel to the north of the Maldives’ northernmost atoll each year.

The project is set to include a transshipment port facility, airport development, a cruise hub, yacht marina, bunkering services, a dock yard, real estate, and conventional tourism developments.

Citing growing east-west trade between China and India, the project also proposes to take advantage of more than 30 large cities which lie within a 4000km radius of the atoll. Moreover, the South Asian Free Trade Arrangement (SAFTA) means that export processing zones established in iHavan will enjoy duty free access to 1.7 billion people in the South Asian region.

Expansion of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) Following the 2012 termination of the GMR concession agreement, the government is currently devising a new master plan for developing the country’s main international airport.

Around forty percent of the tourism industry’s bed capacity is currently situated in the same atoll as the airport, with 80 percent of tourists taking less than one hour to reach their destination from INIA. Furthermore, the government plans to increase tourist arrivals to 5 million per year during its current term.

“As such, the need to expand the airport’s capacity to cater to this additional demand and to provide value added commercial and high end retail services of highest international standards, is a key priority of the Government,” explains the forum’s website.

Hulhumale’ Phase II DevelopmentThe next stage of the development in the Maldives “first fully reclaimed, pre-planned city” will involve further reclamation to the north of the island.

Potential investors are being made aware of President Abdulla Yameen’s plans to develop the island into a ‘youth city’ with a population of 50,000, which will include a “technopolis park” to facilitate light industries.

The construction of the long-awaited bridge between Malé and Hulhumalé is planned to further open up economic opportunities in the reclaimed island city.

Relocation and expansion of the existing central portNoting that the country’s major port in Malé has reached its capacity, the MIF will hope to attract investors to assist in the relocation of the main port to the nearby industrial island of Thilafushi.

The project will include reclamation work on the island, the introduction of state-of-the-art facilities – including warehousing capacity, and marine harbour and support functions to cater to all types of vessel.

Exploration for oil and gas With oil imports accounting for 31 percent of the Maldives’ imports in 2012, the country is seeking to reduce reliance on foreign fuel with an oil and gas exploration projects, explains the event information.

Previous attempts to locate economically viable reserves were unsuccessful, though the government wishes to find investors who can undertake more extensive surveys in the country’s territory.

The proposed projects are due to be supported by the “relatively freer regulatory environment” provided by the special economic zones promised by the Yameen administration.

Creating a future for the Economy

Asif noted that the decision to hold the conference in Singapore sends a clear message to the international community that the Maldives is keen to discuss ideas with their potential partners, and to build bridges with countries they would like to work with in the future.

“It will create a better platform for Maldives when we do work in places like Singapore – it’s an ideal place to unveil something like this so we can go forward with that area.”

The operator’s of Singapore’s Changi Airport met with President Yameen last week, sparking rumours that they would provide consulting services on the development of INIA.

“Such a forum like this is organised to give a positive vibe, that we are open for foreign investment and willing to discuss [ideas],” he added.

A host of countries have already expressed their interest and are registered for the Maldives Investment Forum, President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz confirmed today.

“There is a lot of co-operation from business groups from other countries, like China, the US, Japan and from this area. There are a lot of participants registered on the forum,” said Muaz,

President Yameen will be leaving tomorrow afternoon to attend the forum, where he will give the keynote speech to the more than 300 investors from 15 countries who have reportedly registered to participate.

Following a presentation detailing the five projects, Tourism Minister and head of the cabinet’s Economic Council Ahmed Adeeb will give a speech, before a question and answer session regarding the proposed projects.

President Yameen’s vision for foreign investment was spelled out recently, during the inauguration of a housing project in Hulhumalé – part of the ‘youth city’ project.

“What we would like to confirm for the foreign investors who come to the Maldives is that foreign investors should feel that Maldives is your second home here,” said Yameen.

“We are going to open up the Maldives in a huge way to foreign investors. Our thirst cannot be quenched. The opportunity to foreign investors is going to be enormous.”


Government signs service agreement with Tatva for waste management project

The Finance Ministry has signed the service agreement for a renegotiated waste management contract with India-based Tatva Global Renewable Energy last week.

Newspaper Haveeru reported that the government will pay MVR8million as a mobilisation fee to commence the waste management project within 45 days under the service agreement signed on Thursday (October 31), which includes all the details for implementation.

The company has been provided a 700,000 square foot plot in Thilafushi as well as the garbage trucks used by the Male’ City Council. While Tatva will dispose of garbage collected at the waste dump in Male’ under the first phase of the project, the company will begin providing a garbage collection service to households in the capital under the second phase.

Each phase is expected to take 18 months for completion.

The previous administration of former president Mohamed Nasheed signed an agreement with Tatva in May 2011 as part of efforts to generate power from recycling waste gathered from Male’ as well as surrounding inhabited and resort islands.

However, by December last year, President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s administration had announced it was in the process of renegotiating Tatva’s agreement in a bid to replace the deal with what Environment Minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela at the time called a “mutually beneficial” agreement.


Fire outbreaks inside engine room of gas supply boat, injures four

Police have reported that today there was a fire outbreak inside the engine room of a boat docked at Thilafushi port to load gas, injuring four men.

According to police the incident was reported this morning at around 10am.

Police stated that one of the Maldivian men injured in the incident is in a critical condition and is currently being treated at Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital.

The police’s Serious and Organized Crime Department is investigating the case.


‘Toxic bomb’ ticks on Maldives rubbish island: AFP

“Descending by plane into the Maldives offers a panoramic view of azure seas and coral-fringed islands, but as the tarmac nears, billowing smoke in the middle distance reveals an environmental calamity,” writes the AFP.

“Thilafushi Island, a half-hour boat trip from the capital, is surrounded by the same crystal clear waters and white sand that have made the Indian Ocean archipelago a honeymoon destination for the rich and famous.

But no holidaymaker sets foot here and none could imagine from their plane seats that the rising smoke is the waste from residents and previous visitors being set alight by men like 40-year-old Fusin.

A migrant from Bangladesh, he is one of several dozen employees on “Rubbish Island” — the biggest waste dump in the country where he’s paid $350 a month for 12-hour shifts, seven days a week.

With no safety equipment bar a pair of steel-capped boots, he clambers over a stinking mountain of garbage, eyes streaming and voice choked after four years’ exposure to thick, toxic fumes.

Beneath his feet lie the discards of the cramped capital Male’ and the local tourism industry that has helped turn the collection of more than 1,000 islands into the wealthiest country in South Asia.”

Read more


No waste spill in Thilafushi lagoon: Male’ City Council

The Male’ City Council (MCC) has disputed “inaccurate” local media reports that a large waste spill occurred in the Thilafushi (‘garbage island’) lagoon last night.

Large amounts of garbage were reported to have accumulated in the Thilafushi lagoon due to “spillover” while a barge was off loading waste from the capital Male’, according to Sun Online.

However, MCC Councillor Mohamed Abdul Kareem, the council member responsible for waste management, told Minivan News today (June 29) that local media reports were “not accurate” and that no garbage spill occurred on Thilafushi last night.

“Due to the bad weather this past month the jetty was damaged – half of it was broken and it has been damaged for two weeks – however repairs were completed yesterday,” Kareem explained.

“Earlier this month because of the high winds, some waste was carried into the harbor, but not a big amount,” he added. “There was no spill, it’s not an issue.”

Kareem explained that trash tends to “line the [harbour] area” and moves from one side to the other in relation to the wind, current, and tides, however due to the harbor’s shape does not easily float out into the open sea.

“Thirty vessels dump trash there daily, so there might be something in the area, but it’s a dead end,” said Kareem.

“Items have been floating [in the harbor] over a month, but there was not a big spill or dump,” he noted.

Senior officials from the MCC were sent to inspect Thilafushi last month and confirmed operations were “very organised”, according to Kareem.

“Cleaning [waste that accumulates in the harbor] is ongoing,” said Kareem. “The area is well maintained by the Male’ City Council.”

Thilafushi rehabilitation stalled

Thilafushi management was transferred to the Male’ City Council (MCC) in 2010 as part of the Decentralisation Act. Accordingly, a contract was signed in 2011 with the Indian-based company Tatva Global Renewable Energy to rehabilitate the island, manage garbage generated in Male’, on nearby inhabited islands and resorts, as well as implement a system designed to generate power from recycling waste.

However, President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik’s administration announced it was renegotiating the Tatva agreement in December 2012 to reach what Environment Minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela referred to at the time as a “mutually beneficial” agreement.

In response the Male’ City Council (MCC) accused authorities of trying to “sabotage” the deal.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Environment and Social Safeguards Coordinator Ibrahim Mohamed told Minivan News earlier this year that plans to rehabilitate Thilafushi have been stalled due to procedural “hiccups”.

“The World Bank (WB) is not happy, because Thilafushi is not a managed site,” said Mohamed. “There were hiccups in environmental safeguards.”

In order to ensure waste management on Thilafushi adhered to proper environmental safety standards, the government has been seeking assistance to rehabilitate the island.

“During the public private partnership that was [previously] announced, Tatva was contracted to do a proper landfill and incinerator, etc. They were investing US$15 million, but then when the government changed [in February 2012] there were hiccups in all these public private partnership contracts, and they left,” recounted Mohamed.

He explained that Tatva was ultimately brought back to negotiate a new contract.

“First there was the idea of throwing them out, but then [Tatva was] brought [back] in and told to sell some shares to local companies, i.e. water and sewerage. [So] they finally agreed to form a consortium with local companies and invest,” Mohamed continued.

“Within next two years we will see a better, rehabilitated facility [at Thilafushi],” he added.

While Thilafushi waste management remains a contentious issue, other projects are being implemented in Raa and Ari Atollsfunded, respectively, by the World Bank and Climate Change Trust Fund (CCTF) – in an effort to develop alternative processing sites.


Government uncertain over waste management future as Tatva negotiations continue

The government remains locked in negotiations to find a “permanent” waste management solution in the Maldives following concerns about a recent build up of garbage in Male’, State Environment Minister Abdul Matheen Mohamed has said.

Matheen told Minivan News that although immediate concerns about garbage levels in the capital had been dealt with by Male’ City Council (MCC), which was in the process of “clearing” waste disposal sites on a daily basis – uncertainty remained on a long-term solution to dealing with trash.

At present, waste from across the country is shipped over to the island of Thilafushi near Male’ – an island that serves as the country’s key site for processing and burning garbage.

Certain councillors and MPs from Male’ last week claimed that a failure to deal with a build up of waste in the capital in recent months had escalated into a “national disaster” that could have potential health and safety implications for the public if not addressed.

However, Matheen added that the Finance Ministry’s decision last month to provide an estimated MVR 7 million (US$454,000) in funding to the MCC to try and clear trash from waste sites in the capital had already shown positive results.

“The MCC is clearing waste daily, the crisis is over,” he said. “Right now I believe that trying to manage waste in Male’ is not the best solution. If this waste can be shifted to Thilafushi that may be for the best.”

State negotiations

Matheen said that the government was committed to seeking financing for alternative waste management schemes, while also renegotiating a deal signed by the former government with Tatva Global Renewable Energy.

The government of former President Mohamed Nasheed signed a contract with Tatva in 2011 to allow the India-based company to take over handling of waste in the capital – as well as from nearby inhabited islands and resorts properties.

The agreement also outlined a means of generating power from recycling waste products brought to Thilafushi in an attempt to cut down on trash being burned.

By December last year, President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s administration announced it was in the process of renegotiating Tatva’s agreement in a bid to replace the deal with what Environment Minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela at the time called a “mutually beneficial” agreement.

Just last week, Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad said that although the new agreement with Tatva was yet to be signed, a deal was expected to be finalised in the coming days.

However, Matheen today claimed that no agreement had been reached as yet over the negotiations, which he claimed appeared to be nearing some form of conclusion.

“The process has taken so much time. We will have to take a decision soon [on whether to sign the Tatva deal],” he said.

According to Matheen, the discussions with Tatva Global Renewable Energy had been complicated by having to find an agreement between a number of different parties; including the government, the MCC, service providers like the State Electric Company Limited (STELCO) and management at Thilafushi.

He alleged that another concern about the deal was the need for Tatva itself to find sufficient investment to back its own part of the proposed waste management scheme.

A spokesperson for Tatva was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.

Matheen said that the government was waiting to see if an agreement could be reached with Tatva over the deal, adding that authorities would otherwise seek to open discussions with other service providers to try and find an alternate means of waste management.

Male’ clean up

While the negotiations continue, Male’ Councillor Mohamed Abdul Kareem confirmed to Minivan News that despite difficulties earlier this month, the council had now almost dealt fully with waste build-up in the capital after receiving funding from the Finance Ministry.

“The only problem we have had with waste management has been the budgeting issues, other than that, we have the technical expertise to clean the waste,” he said.

Kareem claimed that upon receiving funds from the government, the MCC had been able to hire special dhonis (boats) to clear garbage from disposal sites in Male’ that had been allowed to build up over a period of several months. The build up of waste had led to disputes between the council and various state bodies over responsibility for clearing the waste.

Waste being cleared from Male' Saturday (June 1)

With a proportion of funding now having been received by the MCC from the Finance Minsitry, Kareem said the council had been able to clear waste yard number two in Male’ of rubbish.  The site was now being “treated” to try and reduce odours that had built up at the site as a result of recent wet weather, before it would again start receiving waste.

He added that the site was presently being cleared and would not be temporarily open for use until the council completed its treatment and renovation.

Kareem claimed that as long as the government continued to provide funding for the MCC to handle waste management in and around the capital, the MCC did not expect to have any similar problems cleaning waste in the future.

He alleged last month that following the initial signing of the Tatva waste management deal under the previous government in May 2011, the MCC had not been provided with a budget for waste management – even after the deal was stalled by the present administration.

Waste concerns

In April, divisions were reported to have arisen between different ministerial bodies and the private sector over who should take responsibility for garbage being dumped into the sea.

Earlier this year, Minivan News reported that government authorities were working on trying to create functional waste management projects that would serve as an alternative to shipping waste to Thilafushi, despite numerous failed attempts in the past.


Government agrees to US$454,000 waste management funding; councillors warn situation a “disaster”

The Ministry of Finance has agreed to provide Male’ City Council (MCC) with an estimated MVR 7 million (US$454,000) in funding this month to try and alleviate a build up of waste in and around the capital that local councillors and MPs claim poses a “national disaster”.

Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad told Minivan News today that amid concerns about a build-up of waste in the capital, funding was being granted to the MCC to deal with the situation following an ongoing dispute over responsibility for managing garbage.  The Finance Minister said he was unaware of the exact amount of funding provided to the municipal council at time of press.

The funding was announced as the MCC continues to accuse some state officials within the current government of having failed to provide it with a budget to deal with waste management for over a year in an attempt to discredit the work of its councillors. The majority of the MCC’s councillors are represented by members of the opposition Maldivan Democratic Party (MDP).

State funding

According to Jihad, funding will be provided to the MCC ahead of the expected signing over the next three weeks of a renegotiated waste management contract with India-based Tatva Global Renewable Energy. Once the deal is agreed, Tatva will take over handling of waste in the capital, as well as from nearby inhabited islands and resorts properties.

The previous government of former president Mohamed Nasheed had signed an agreement with Tatva in May 2011 as part of efforts to generate power from recycling waste gathered from Male’, as well as surrounding inhabited and resort islands.

By December last year, President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s administration had announced it was in the process of renegotiating Tatva’s agreement in a bid to replace the deal with what Environment Minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela at the time called a “mutually beneficial” agreement.

Minister Jihad has said that although the new agreement with Tatva has yet to be signed, a deal was expected to be finalised this week, while funding would also be given to the MCC to try and alleviate the waste issue in the meantime.

State Environment Minister Abdul Matheen Mohamed said that while his department was not directly involved with dealing with the waste management issue, it had tried to “help” find a solution by meeting with the MCC and the Finance Ministry.

Matheen added that the ministry had informed the MCC that if it was unable to handle the capital’s waste management, the Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) could take responsibility for the matter until the new Tatva contract was expected to come into place on June 15 this year.

However, following discussions with the MCC, he claimed that a lack of finance has been identified as the key issue preventing processing of the waste.

According to Matheen, the Finance Ministry last week agreed to provide MVR 6.8 million (US$441,000) in funding to the MCC, with the council in return giving “confirmation” that a clean-up operation would be undertaken.

“The MCC have said they will be able to clean up the waste if we can provide finance. However, we are still seeing things are not going well,” he claimed.

Matheen also rejected allegations by the MCC that the government had sought to purposefully undermine the council and its work by not providing funding to oversee waste in the capital.

“The ministry respects local councils and we will help them when needed. So far we haven’t received any additional requests for help [from the MCC],” he said.

Clean up challenges

Male’ councillor Mohamed Abdul Kareem today confirmed that the Finance Ministry had agreed to provide funding to cover the MCC’s outstanding debts for equipment hire and other costs related to handling waste.

However, he alleged that following the initial signing of the Tatva waste management deal under the previous government in May 2011, the MCC had not been provided with a budget for waste management – even after the deal was stalled by the present administration.

“As the MCC does not have its own bank account, we are required to deposit our revenue to the government’s own finances,” Kareem said. “While we are collecting revenue from resorts for dealing with waste, we are not directly receiving the funds.”

Kareem claimed that the issue of waste around the capital had become increasingly severe in the last three to four weeks as a result of both ongoing financial limitations and recent adverse weather that prevented barges being able to transport waste.

Kareem added that with the council’s waste areas filling up rapidly in the capital and a limited access to heavy equipment to process garbage, the situation had escalated into a “disaster”.

He said that following meetings with the finance ministry this month, funding had now been obtained, with the majority of the money expected to cover outstanding debts resulting from having to hire specialised equipment to process and transport the waste.

Kareem told Minivan New that efforts were now underway to secure the services of special dhotis to try and shift waste over to the nearby island of Thilafushi, which serves as the country’s key site for processing and burning garbage.

“We are discussing at present hiring a number of 100 foot-long dhonis to try and transfer the waste as it has been there so long, which makes things more difficult. Just last night we transferred 29 truck loads [of garbage] to Thilafushi.”

Councillor Kareem said he did accept that there were some parties within President Waheed’s coalition that had shown an interest in trying to resolve the waste management problem, but accused other representatives in the current administration of lacking sincerity in their commitments.

Kareem said the MCC presently understood that Tatva Global Renewable Energy was now expected to take over responsibility for waste management later next month at part of a deal with the government that would require the council to hand over all its facilities to the company “free of charge”.

“They will have to clean up the capital’s waste, though we will be expected to provide our facilities to them as part of the concession agreement,” he said. “It’s not an ideal situation, but we don’t have any other options at present.”


With funding now agreed, Ahmed Nihan, Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP for Vili-Male’, said residents on the island remained concerned this week about the potential health implications of a build up of garbage on a barge near to the island.

Nihan joined an estimated 50 residents from the island on Friday to protest about a perceived lack of action from both the state and the MCC to try and resolve the issue.

Before leaving Male’ for campaigning purposes yesterday, he believed there had been little change in the situation, despite being informed of efforts by the MCC to try and secure the services of dhonis to try and ship the waste away from the island to Thilafushi.

“I have been asked to host a conference called between the finance Ministry and the MCC on my return to find a solution to the issue,” Nihan said. “It’s all a big mess.”


Maldives’ waste management hampered by local politics, lack of funding

Government civil servants are still working to create functional waste management systems despite numerous failed projects nationwide and a lack of ministerial collaboration.

Establishing a national waste management system is dependent on the success of a US$6.5 million pilot program implemented by the Ministry of Housing and Environment.

Ahmed Nizam, Solid Waste Management Coordinator for the project, told Minivan News that construction of one system on the uninhabited island of Vandhoo in Raa Atoll will hopefully be completed by late 2013 and the system should be operational by the beginning of 2014.

Nizam explained, “This differs from previous projects because it is holistic, sustainable, and state of the art. It is a regional waste management system that includes everything – community awareness, equipment, infrastructure, transportation, and processing – whereas previous projects lacked in one or more of these areas.”

The World Bank funded Maldives Environmental Management Project (MEMP) will cover four northern atolls – Noonu, Raa, Baa, and Lhaviyani – and plans to process 52 tons of waste daily for 45 inhabited islands (over 7000 households), 15 operational resorts, 15 resorts in development, and nine industrial islands.

“The Vandhoo processing system has been engineered by a German company and meets European standards. The World bank would only provide funds to a properly functioning facility,” Nizam stated.

The processing facility on Vandhoo differs from previous waste management endeavors in that it has learned from the horrific failures of Thilafushi. There will be controlled incineration and no open burning, mixed waste, or land reclamation using trash.

Instead, composting of organic waste – which accounts for 70 percent of trash volume – will be dealt with at the island level, while the incinerated ash that cannot be reused for making bricks will be landfilled in “cells” that prevent chemical leaching into groundwater.

“Thilafushi is not what we want. The current conditions there pose serious health and safety threats to Bangladeshi workers living there and those toxins spread to Male’ and Villingili as well.

“The citizens of Raa atoll have expressed concerns the Vandhoo site will be another Thilafushi and we have gone to great lengths to ensure that will not happen,” Nizam added.

Although recyclables will be separated, there will be no facilities on Vandhoo to process them. Currently, the only alternative is to sell to neighboring countries.

However, there are plans to convert heat produced from the incinerators using a “donkey boiler” into electricity.

Nizam also explained to Minivan News that current government policy dictates waste must be brought to the nearest designated processing facility.

In practice, this “proximity principle” means that waste from the northern atolls can be transported to Vandhoo instead of Thilafushi.

“With only two transport vessels for this regional system we lack the capacity to expand transportation to the northern-most atolls. However, there is a possibility the transportation network can expanded in the future,” Nizam stated.

Depending on the success of this pilot program and access to development funds, regional centers are planned to be built throughout the country. In the interim, transporting waste to Vandhoo island will serve as a stop-gap measure.

A waste tracking system is included in this regional system, which will monitor how much garbage is being sent by resorts and matching this against what is received on Vandhoo, to discourage dumping into the sea by rogue garbage contractors trying to avoid fuel bills.

To further ensure the project’s sustainability, island councils in the region as well as civil society organisations are partnering with the MEMP to educate islanders through community-based awareness programs.

“Resort fees and household fees will cover operational costs, so this regional system will not be dependent on government funds. However, the government has the option to subsidize fees for islanders,” Nizam said.

The newly created state utilities company Fenaka Corporation Ltd will run the Vandhoo operations.

MEMP is currently negotiating with civil works contractors to develop Vandhoo infrastructure.

Past failures and current shortcomings

Establishing waste management systems on the islands has been an ongoing struggle.

Most islands have waste areas that vary in quality and have no means of processing or removing trash from the garbage areas.

Nizam explained that after the 2004 tsunami the United Nations (UN), Canadian and Australian Red Cross built infrastructure and provided equipment for some islands, however no island level program plans or systems were put in place.

A more wide-scale failure was the European Union (EU)-supported Ari Atoll waste management program.

“All the studies were completed and islands were provided infrastructure and equipment, however funding was withdrawn [for a regional processing facility] because the government-proposed equipment was deemed too expensive and no regulations were established,” according to Nizam.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s government attempted to correct the problem but could not secure funds, or establish sustainable public private partnerships due to political polarisation fueling a lack of island council support, he added.

Currently, under the EU and Australia Aid funded Climate Change Trust Fund (CCTF), a pilot program is being launched to support waste management development on five Ari atoll islands and one waste transfer vessel that will bring garbage to Thilafushi, Nizam further explained.

Correcting the mismanagement of Thilafushi remains a work in progress.

The previous government under 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 Male’ City Council (MCC), which accused authorities of trying to “sabotage” the deal.

Meanwhile 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.

There are no regulations or laws for waste management, only the Environmental Protection Act, however the Environmental Protection Agency is in the “final stages” of completing regulations and should be releasing them within the next few weeks, according to Nizam.

Is civil society filling the gap?

The opinion of many islanders is that since there is no way to process or remove the waste, there is no point in not littering.

Imad Mohamed, Executive Director of Huvadhoo Aid (HAD), told Minivan News about some of the projects and related challenges this non-governmental organization (NGO) has encountered regarding waste management and environmental conservation.

Huvahdoo Aid’s main focus in this area is helping other NGOs throughout the region develop community-based waste management plans.

“However, last year HAD tried to construct waste management center on Hoadedhdhoo island in collaboration with the Male’-based NGO Community Aid, funded by the Mangroves for the Future (MMF) program. We also had a partnership agreement with a neighboring resort that was willing to donate an incinerator.

“However, the Hoadedhdhoo Island Council claimed that they did not want HAD to build the [waste management] centre, because it is ‘mandated’ that the island council should run the centre,” according to Imad.

A source from the partnering resort explained that they were excited to donate the incinerator to HAD, assist with installation, and even modify it to create hot water free of change.

“It had been sitting on our dock for five months rusting,” the source explained.

However, logistics to transport the incinerator could not be arranged.

The incinerator has now been given to a different island in the atoll.

The Hoadedhdhoo Island Council did not respond to calls at the time of press.

Resorts going it alone

Resorts are aiming for “self-sufficiency” when it comes to waste management, since there are no regional centres in operation.

While there are tourism regulations that require certain waste management systems are constructed on resorts, they are only inspected once constructed, Nizam told Minivan News.

“Facilities are not properly used, are very costly, and some resorts claim tourists do not want to see waste burning,” he said.

Whether resorts adopt sustainable, environmentally-friendly practices is de facto voluntary.

Some are motivated by the need to maintain an eco-friendly reputation and sell the Maldives as a “premium [vacation] destination” that is also “environmentally sensitive,” a resort manager told Minivan News.

Their resort is “trying to do the right thing” and has developed a waste management system that has reduced 70 percent of their waste.

“Thilafushi is just wrong. We have reduced our trips there from seven per week to one,” the source stated.

The resort also conducts training for staff and their Maldivian team has “embraced” these environmentally friendly practices, the manager claimed.


Livestock import ban following anthrax scare in Tamil Nadu

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has enforced a ban on importing live animals and meat to the Maldives from Tamil Nadu in India following an anthrax outbreak, local media reports.

A statement from the HPA read that two towns in Tamil Nadu had reported an outbreak of anthrax, and as a precautionary measure the agency had banned live animal and meal imports from any state within Tamil Nadu.

The HPA has urged against using live animals and meat produced after December 31, 2012 imported from India.

“Normally anthrax affects animals such as goats and cows. However, humans can get the disease from animals. Humans contract the disease by coming in contact with infected animals, airborne germs and consuming meat of infected animals,” the HPA stated.

Anthrax is an acute disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, according to the agency.

Orf virus found in Thilafushi goat

Prior to being abolished, the Centre for Community Health and Disease Control (CCHDC) reported that a goat in Thilafushi had tested positive for the Orf virus earlier this month.

Despite the Ministry of Agriculture earlier stating that Orf is a dangerous virus, as reported by local media, the CCHDC said it does not pose a great risk to humans.

Epidemiologist at CCHDC Dr Aishath Aruna said that a human can only contract the virus by coming into direct contact with an infected goat, Sun Online reported.

“Humans can contract the disease from goats, by coming into direct contact with an infected goat. It’s not a dangerous disease. Only people who tend and rear goats are at risk,” Aruna was quoted as saying by local media.

In regard to goats being reared in Thilafushi – otherwise known as “garbage island” – Dr Aruna told Sun Online that eating the meat from these goats could pose a risk to humans.

The Thilafushi Corporation said the island is used for industrial purposes, and that people who rear goats in the island do so without obtaining the necessary permits.

The CDHDC was abolished by President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik earlier this month. The President’s Office confirmed that functions and responsibilities of the CCHDC were to be transferred to the HPA.

The CCHDC had been working to identify diseases prevalent in the Maldives, and to prevent disease and increase health awareness.