“Thilafushi” – An Environmental Nightmare
The feature article published in the local newspaper Haveeru Daily titled “The largest dump yard drifts away” was shocking to read. The news crew of Haveeru daily visited Thilafushi, the landfill island and has brought to our attention a catastrophic matter which has been left unattended.
The lagoon where Thilafushi is located was called Thilafalhu, a shallow lagoon where in the early 90’s, then government of Maldives opted to reclaim by dumping waste. Since then the lagoon has been the target of many islands including the capital Male’ to dispose waste. As a result the island of Thilafushi came to being.
There were questions raised even at the beginning of the project, by different environmental organizations about its sustainability and its impact on the environment. But the Government of Maldives thought it was the best option they had as we had no resources and land to operate a sustainable waste disposal system.
Although The Government’s intention behind disposing waste to Thilafalhu was entirely justifiable, as we see it today, they have failed to meet the environmental issues we Maldivians have been advocating for decades. The island, as it is a product of waste, is now marked not clean and safe for inhabitance. Hence it is used as an industrial island.
Many of us thought the hazardousness of dumping waste to Thilafalhu was limited only to the above mentioned fact. But, today’s report on the Haveeru proves that, the island’s waste management and landfill has not been maintained as how it should have been, and as a result the waste dumped to the island is being washed away to the Maldivian waters by the strong currents. The reporters of Haveeru Daily has confirmed that a large area of the sea is covered by plastic objects, polyethylenen bags, wood pieces, plastic bottles and items made from regiform, none of which are less harmful to our fragile reefs and marine organisms.
According to the report on Haveeru Daily, the frequent visitors and workers at Thilafushi confirms that, the waste are not maintained and that it is the main reason which has caused the waste to adrift to the waters. They also added that, it has been more than a month since the waste has started to float out of the harbour of the island into the ocean.
To answer the above stated accusation, Abdulla Abdul Kareem of Male’ City Council, states that, it is of course not the mismanagement but the careless conduct of the vessels which carry waste from resorts, who are responsible for this environmental disaster.“The Lorries from Male’ take the waste into the dumping ground of Thilafushi, but the vessels from resorts just dump it as they like….They must not dump it to the lagoon whenever they are not able to anchor as soon as they reach the island” Mr. Kareem Said.
But, the report published on Haveeru Daily indicates that the vessels which travel to Thilafushi from resorts do not agree with the statement of Mr. Kareem. They say that, the problem we see in Thilasfushi today has never occurred before, and a Captain of one of the vessels stated that, the waste was managed well until recently by cleaning the dumping area using Excavators as soon as the area is full. The statements made by Male’ City Council and the Waste Deposing vessels give us the final clue about the responsible party behind the mess in the Maldivian waters. Although Male’ City Council has said that they are maintaining the dumping as they have done before (or better than that), as the news crew states, most of us have never seen anything like this before and by the words of the frequent commuters between Male’ and Thilafushi, it is known that it has been a month or two since the waste management in the island has gone out of control. Therefore Res ipsa loquitur, the city council or any other party responsible in the waste management of Thilafushi has failed themselves to a great extent by not being able to carry out their responsibilities as they did before the incident.
ECOCARE Maldives condemns the irresponsible nature of the authorities in the waste management of this island as well as, the Environment Protection Agency of the Maldives for their reaction to this matter has been a lot slower than expected as this is the “second or third day” according to Mr. Naeem of EPA, since the matter was brought to their attention. They have been unsuccessful in keeping pace with the “National Solid Waste Management Policy of the Maldives” in managing the dumping of harmful waste on the marine ecosystem of the striking lagoons of Maldives. Their consideration of the matter, or for an alternative, while the disposal of waste to Thilafushi has contaminated acres of waters around the reef and has destroyed the habitat of many living organisms has been less than entertaining.
We have seen oil spills and other man-made disasters to marine life. But we have never even thought that the authorities of our small island nation, which speaks so dearly about the environment, which expresses its concern towards environmental calamities, climate and marine life in every podium they stand on, will cause such harm to our own environment. As one of the interviewee has mentioned to Haveeru news crew “It is time for the Maldives to return all the medals we have won in the service to the Environment” otherwise it’s time for EPA to act swiftly before things go out of hands.
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