03 May A lesson in the power of community: a weekend on Huura island
I spent this weekend in a local island, Huura, located about an hour away from Malé within the North Malé Atoll for some rest and relaxation. The weekend was absolutely great, with the three things I love most in great abundance: sleeping, swimming and reading!
I stayed at a local guesthouse called Sea Shine guesthouse, where I had an absolutely fantastic time. The beautiful island was made even better by the amazing hospitality shown to me there, and over the course of my weekend we had a lot of good chats and laughs.
Beautiful white sandy beaches in Huura
The owner, Mohammed Nafiz, showed me around the island when I arrived off the ferry. We wandered past decorated houses, through the shelter of palm trees, passed the mangroves on the edge of the island and arrived at the gorgeous white sandy beach.
I saw smoke not too far off and asked if they were burning trash. When Nafiz brought me over there –welp, I was confronted with another mini-Thilafushi (If you don’t know what Thilafushi is, check out my last blog post here).
Burning site in Huura
I spoke to him about my work and how we are trying our best to improve the waste management situation in the Maldives, working with local islands and resorts to spread the message about the impacts of marine litter and advising on how to better reduce and manage waste.
We got to talking about their situation in Huura and how it would be good to bring the community together and speak about this issue. One thing led to another, and soon we started talking about getting a clean-up organised for that weekend! Nafiz is a real pillar of the community, and this was evidenced by how quickly he brought everyone together to plan and discuss. Within two cups of tea, we were meeting with members of the island council for their approval and support on planning, Nafiz had called the principal of the local school to ask for student volunteers, and had also e-mailed around to the other guesthouses on the island to ask for their participation. Things come together so quickly when you have people who are committed to maintaining the beauty of their island!
The next day was filled with great fun exploring the island – including snorkelling around sharks, lying by the beach and going fishing for the first time! When the clean-up rolled around on Saturday, we had a fantastic turn out of about 40 people, all demonstrating their love and respect for their island and fellow islanders.
Young ladies from the local school cleaning up
We split up and wandered around the island, collecting bags and bags of trash. The final collection was good for just an hour and a half of collection! As I mentioned, we had many schoolchildren come to participate from the Huura school, as well as staff and guests from Sea Shine Guest House (where I was staying), Beach Heaven guest house, Sunset Holiday guest house, Najaf Lake View guest house, Coral Lane guest house, East Inn guest house, Ayaana Lodge guest house and Coconut Villa guest house. It was fantastic!
Looking sweaty and happy!
There was a lot to clean up, and it was quite hard work (especially when juggling a large and cumbersome camera around your neck – at least the pictures turned out well!). When we finished, we loaded up all the trash and took a nice deserved “chill-out” time.
The trash will (for now) be burned on the island – so the clean up really just removed the immediate threat to marine life, as well as (hopefully) created a strong message and visual reminder, especially to the schoolchildren, about how quickly litter can accumulate and how important it is to be a steward of your own environment.
What we collected!
It was really about behavioural change, which comes slowly but surely, helped along by these concrete actions to put it into real terms. In order to actually effect real change, there needs to be proper equipment and actual real management of the waste, not just ad hoc clean ups. More on that next week – I don’t want to make this post too long!
SO basically, what I learned this weekend is a) I have a full-blown obsession with trash, b) community spirit is VITAL to creating and encouraging change and c) sadly, communities are not the only relevant actors: there needs to be better coordination at the national level to ensure that islands are provided with what they really need in order to correctly manage their waste for the safety of their people and their marine life.
Please tune in next week as I profile Huura’s waste management policies, outline what I think local islands need in order to truly manage their waste, and detail a truly disappointing failure of a nearby resort on waste management!