The government has announced is it in the process of renegotiating a waste management contract for the Male’ area with India-based Tatva Global Renewable Energy – leading to criticism by the opposition-dominated Male’ City Council (MCC) that the state is trying to sabotage the agreement for political gain.
Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration signed the original waste management agreement with Tatva in May 2011 in a deal that was supposed to have generated power from recycling waste. The scheme was also said to be part of attempts to improve the overall standards of waste management in Male’ and the nearby “garbage island”, Thilafushi.
The deal, like the airport development agreement with India-based GMR declared void by the government this week, was been backed by International Finance Corporation (IFC), an affiliate organisation of the World Bank, according to the Inter Press Service news agency.
However parts of the agreement were ordered halted by the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in August this year over alleged concerns about the contract, which was also signed under the former government.
The ACC received concerns that the project would lead to an anticipated loss of MVR 1 billion (US$64.8 million) in government finances over a 20 year operating period, according to local news service Haveeru.
ACC President Hassan Luthfee had phone switched off at the time of going to press.
In correspondence sent to Minivan News this week, Dr Mariyam Shakeela, who has served as Environment Minister for the last few months and was most recently appointed acting Human Rights Minister, announced that a previous contract agreed with Tatva was expected to be replaced with a “mutually beneficial” agreement.
“Provided they perform within the time frame given, the contract will remain with Tatva,” she said in response to whether the company would retain its role on the waste management project.
Dr Shakeela, who did not respond to a question on the nature of the government’s concerns with the previous contract, said the time frame for the deal was “under negotiation”.
“[The] whole agreement is being formulated,” she added.
A spokesperson for Tatva Global Renewable Energy was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.
However, the MCC has claimed that following a visit of senior officials from Tatva Global Renewable Energy between November 18 to November 20, a failure by the government to involve its councillors in the process and ongoing delays to commencing the project had let it to conclude that the deal would be eventually cancelled. The MCC said it expected the project to eventually be cancelled, despite increasing problems with waste management in the capital.
MCC councillor Mohamed Abdul Kareem told Minivan News that he had been informed senior Tatva executives had been invited to the Maldives for several days earlier this month to meet with ministers and stakeholders involved in the energy project.
“However, I don’t know what the discussions were focused on. Many groups were there; the Finance Ministry, other government departments, the Attorney General’s Office and the State Electricity Company (STELCO) were all there,” he said.
However, Kareem questioned why the MCC – as a major stakeholder in its own waste management project – had also not been invited to the discussions to express its concerns over the need for the waste management project.
“The issue has been continually delayed and the waste management problem is getting worse, while we don’t have the budget to meet our waste management needs,” he claimed.
Kareem alleged that while the government was providing small amounts of funding for waste management, he believed attempts were purposely being made to exacerbate the capital’s refuse problems in order to undermine the municipal council’s work. Kareem added that he was presently consulting lawyers over where the MCC stood on the waste management project.
“We don’t have enough budget to collect the waste, meanwhile the collection centres in Male’ are full and waste is openly being burnt on Thilafushi,” he claimed. “I think this is a game [for the government], I am certain they will cancel this contract.”
Kareem claimed that with an estimated 150,000 inhabitants in Male’ each generating a kilogram of waste per day on average, managing the capital’s waste management was the largest logistical operations in the entire country on a daily basis.
“We are dealing with 150,00 kg of waste everyday, we don’t have efficient enough operations for this. We don’t have enough boat fuel and the excavators we use are 20 to 30 years old. “[Wednesday] even, the starter motor failed on one of these,” he said.