The Maldives is known as the perfect tropical getaway of every tourist’s dreams. The less known fact about the Maldives is that it has an island full of waste, Thilafushi.
Thilafushi Island was first used as a landfill by the government in 1991. Three decades later, the site has expanded into a 10-hectare burning mountain of waste. The government is currently creating a waste management system for the island.
Thilafushi’s mountains of garbage
Thilafushi Island was first established to solve the waste problem in Malé, the capital city of Maldives. The surging number of visitors has turned garbage piles into mountains.
In 2019, the number of tourists visiting the Maldives reached 1.7 million. Meanwhile, the estimation of waste produced by a single tourist is 3.5 kg. That would mean 5,950 tons of waste just from the tourists alone.
The mountains of rubbish on Thilafushi island are harmful to this paradise on earth. The garbage’s residual smoke pollutes the air quality of the area, which is only 7 kilometers away from the highly populated capital city. Hazardous materials such as batteries and asbestos leak toxins to the soil and groundwater, threatening tourism and fisheries. Without a proper waste management system, the condition has become increasingly unsustainable.
The government’s waste management project
In 2018, the Maldives government launched The Greater Malé Environmental Improvement and Waste Management Project. The joint project between the Environment Ministry and WAMCO aims to build a solid waste management system in Greater Male and other islands and a Regional Waste Management Facility with a waste-to-energy treatment plant on Thilafushi island.
The project has two phases:
- Phase 1 focuses on establishing a solid waste management system in the Greater Malé area by:
- Improving the waste collection, transfer, and disposal systems; as well as climate resilience
- Enhancing community-based outer island waste management systems
- Raising public awareness and the institutional capacity in sustainable waste management
- Phase 2 focuses on establishing a waste-to-energy treatment plant on Thilafushi island by:
- Developing new regional waste management facilities and infrastructures
- Conducting dumpsite rehabilitation and remediation
- Improving public awareness and the institutional capacity in 3R (reduce, reuse, recycle).
Sustainable tourism needs a proper waste management
Tourism is a vital income generator for a country. However, what’s even more vital is the work behind it. Proper waste management and a safe environment for the workers are also needed to ensure sustainable tourism.
As of early 2022, the first phase of the Maldives’ waste management project has been completed. The smoke emission from the garbage mountains has ceased, and the project is gearing up to implement its second phase. The Maldives government expects the project to solve 60% of the waste management problems in the country.
Editor: Nazalea Kusuma
Madina is the Assistant Manager for Program at Green Network Asia. She is an English major graduate from Universitas Indonesia with two
years of demonstrated experience in editorial and creative writing,
researching, editing, and creating content.