Waste management on community islands | Life Without Plastic
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Waste management on community islands


Hi all,

Sorry for the delay – it’s a busy time at work and so I’ve not been good about sticking to any kind of posting schedule. Apologies!!

So, as promised, a little more detail into what I think are the main problems with waste management in Malé, with a little example of bad resort-local island relations.

  1. Power is centralised in Malé

Waste management is a huge issue in the Maldives, and the government recognises that. However, the Maldives has a complex political situation, with a central issue being the fact that power is centralised in the capital, Malé, meaning that community islands do not have adequate power to govern according to their own needs and lifestyles. This is especially true when it comes to waste.

2. Limited capacity and machinery on-site

The situation here is totally chaotic – waste is generated on community islands and resorts, and the trash is either burned on-site (in open fire) and/or sent to Thilafushi. Let’s remember that Thilafushi cannot really be called a waste management island, as nothing is being “managed” there – just thrown into an open landfill and burned. Yet, all islands transport their waste here, because they do not have the capacity (financial or logistical) to manage the waste on their own islands. Genuine recycling requires expensive equipment, a large space, and, importantly, something to do with the end product. Though I understand why this means that not every community island can process their waste on-site, I still don’t particularly understand why there haven’t been large recycling facilities installed on Thilafushi, as it is the feeder location for islands in the surrounding atolls.

3. Ineffective use of funding

Things take time to change around here. The government has been granted several funds to deal with this problem[1], most notably a 13 million dollar loan from the World Bank in 2008 to create comprehensive waste management systems on 15 islands[2], and so far nothing has really happened. I’m really looking forward to looking into this a bit further and see what goals they have achieved with this money so far.

Understanding how you can work within the constraints of your role are lessons that you can only learn in the field, and I’m forever grateful to this experience for showing me that good policy and good intentions are nowhere near enough. Before coming here, I really thought that well-managed funding, targeted interventions, and education were the three main ingredients of a recipe for success. I’ve since learned that many obstacles stand in the way, particularly in waste management. These thoughts are to be continued as I learn and experience more…

BONUS for the lack of pictures so far: A small example of poor resort-local island relations

As I mentioned in my last blog post, a few weeks ago I went to Huura island for a restful weekend and had an absolute blast. The only bad part of it was that just 100 metres from my guesthouse there was a huge, ugly, broken down fence – it has been there for so long that vegetation has grown over it.

Vegetation has grown over the broken down fence… You can see the fence of the new tennis court in the background

I asked my host, Nafiz, where this had come from, and he explained that the Four Seasons resort (a stone’s throw away from the island) keep their tennis courts on the community island (uhh..why?). About a year ago a storm blew down the fences and the whole area fell into disrepair. The resort has since left the fence there, instead building a large, fancier tennis court right next to it.

Fence fallen into the water, impeding the passage and creating a hazard

How lovely…

The fence is ugly, dangerous, rusting in the water… Just a disaster! I was very surprised and disappointed at this, and I sent them an e-mail:

“ Dear Four Seasons Huura,

Two weeks ago I stayed at a guesthouse on Huura island, and was very disappointed to see an ugly broken-down fence creating a nuisance and eyesore for the community. When I asked my host about this fence, he said that the fence was from a tennis court that your resort installed, that had since fallen down, and that had not been cleared up by your staff. I can see that you have built a brand new tennis court just metres away, but have not yet taken the time to clear up the broken down fence that impedes the passage for the local people and creates a hazard for animals and young children playing in the area.

I would like to reach out to you and add to the chorus of demands from the island council (who I met with while I was visiting the island) and ask you to remove the fence, which, according to my host, had been there for about a year. I took many pictures and videos if you would like me to send them by e-mail.

If you would like to discuss this further, I would be happy to discuss over the phone or by email (listed above).

Thank you in advance, and I look forward to hearing from you! Best,

Alexis McGivern”

And they got back to me!

“Dear Mr. McGivern, (I’ll let that one slide, I get mistaken for a man over e-mail all the time)

Thanks you very much for your email and we very much appreciate the feedback on the situation on Boda Huraa.

We are already started the process of clearing the remains of the fencing and I have already addressed your concern to our Director of Engineering to expedite the process of the removal of the items.

Working together with the local community and protected the environment are one of our strongest values and trust we do our utmost to continue to resolve this situation and taking this very seriously.

Once again thanks you very much for your concern and the feedback shared and please do let me know if there is anything I can be of further assistance with.

with warmest regards from Kuda Huraa”

So yay for their response, but let’s see if this really happens. (I’m very skeptical…) I’m looking forward to doing a repeat visit to Huura in the next couple of months to see how everyone is doing and see if that bloody fence has been taken down!

Thanks for reading – and stay tuned for more!

UPDATE 12.05.16

Hi all,

Just got some pictures from Nafiz about the fence removal – parts of it have been taken away, but the fence area with thick vegetation still remains:


Fence removal by the water


Removed fence rolled up


Remaining broken fence embedded in year-old vegetation

UPDATE 18.05.16

Received another email from the Four Seasons Huura today, and the fence is now totally gone! Yay!

Cleared fence

Cleared fence

All gone!

All gone!

[1] For example, this 1.2 billion dollar grant from UNDP, which had as one of its central goals the “Establishment of proper waste management in an effort to prevent pollution and degradation of these sensitive habitats”: http://www.mv.undp.org/content/maldives/en/home/operations/projects/environment_and_energy/gef-small-grants-programme0.html

[2] The World Bank (2016) Maldives Environmental Management Project, accessed online http://www.worldbank.org/projects/P108078/maldives-environmental-management-project?lang=en&tab=overview

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