The Mal­dives Waste­land Re­vis­ited

Can the model es­tab­lished by the Mal­dives in terms of waste man­age­ment be em­u­lated by other re­gional coun­tries?

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Syed Zee­shan Ahmed The writer has an in­ter­est in sub­jects of his­tor­i­cal im­por­tance.

De­vel­op­ment, in this day and age, is not with­out its costs. While gi­ant think-tanks and com­pa­nies con­tinue to come up with prompt so­lu­tions to­wards solv­ing these is­sues, the prob­lems keep piling up. ‘Progress’ of­ten leaves be­hind is­sues which are hard to deal with. One of the pri­mary by-prod­ucts of this rapid ‘tech­no­log­i­cal stam­pede’ is the waste that is ac­cu­mu­lated. While the more de­vel­oped coun­tries have been more suc­cess­ful with waste han­dling, the coun­tries of South Asia, how­ever, have lagged be­hind. Many as­pects only be­come a hur­dle in progress which is quite ironic. While many coun­tries strug­gle hard to come up with sys­tems to curb the is­sue, not much has been achieved if one con­sid­ers the over­all sit­u­a­tion. In fact, projects aside, there aren’t many coun­tries in the re­gion which have a clear di­rec­tion in this re­gard..

In the Mal­dives things have been quite ter­ri­ble. The Mal­dives is a coun­try which thrives on its tourism, but has found it hard to man­age its waste. The waste keeps in­creas­ing ev­ery year and the coun­try has found it dif­fi­cult to man­age it.

It was ear­lier this year that re­ports started com­ing of an ‘is­land’ in the

Mal­dives which was be­ing used as a ‘rub­bish dis­posal’spot. This is­land, Thi­la­fushi, which was once as beau­ti­ful as the other is­lands of the Mal­dives, was re­ported to have a rub­bish pile go­ing as high as 15m. This ‘waste is­land’ has raw waste com­ing in from the coun­try’s cap­i­tal, Malé. This gi­gan­tic pile of trash is treated and burned by the work­ers, who func­tion with­out ad­e­quate safety mea­sures. This makes it not only a safety haz­ard but also an en­vi­ron­men­tal one. This is just a small part of the whole pic­ture in the Mal­dives. The prob­lem ex­tends to the whole county and such is­sues clearly re­flect how progress comes at the cost of na­ture, and should be thought of and con­sid­ered dur­ing the plan­ning stage. It is the clear lack of fore­sight in such mat­ters that im­pacts the coun­try’s im­age in the long run. That the Mal­dives is a tourism-ori­ented econ­omy makes things worse.

For­tu­nately, the coun­try has de­cided to move for­ward and re­solve the mat­ter. Re­cently, the gov­ern­ment of the Mal­dives has been suc­cess­ful in ac­quir­ing fi­nanc­ing of US$6mn. This huge loan comes from the Abu Dhabi Fund for De­vel­op­ment (ADFD). Han­dling the waste will just be a sin­gle part of the pro­ject, the other part will be its con­ver­sion into energy. Ac­cord­ing to ADFD, the fi­nanc­ing will help in the de­vel­op­ment of re­new­able energy and sup­port­ing a pos­i­tive, na­ture-friendly path to progress for de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. The pro­ject will add mas­sively to the eco­nomic sec­tor of the Mal­dives. In­stal­la­tion of a power plant is part of the pro­ject, and will help power Addu, the sec­ond largest city in the Mal­dives. This plant will, re­port­edly, pro­duce 4MW, ful­fill­ing around 18% of Male city’s elec­tric­ity de­mands. Around 1.9mn litres of diesel is ex­pected to be saved and the to­tal waste will be re­duced by 10%.

This ini­tia­tive is in­deed a step in the right di­rec­tion and shows re­spon­si­bil­ity on the part of the gov­ern­ment. This, how­ever, leads to another ques­tion: can other South Asian coun­tries fol­low this and do some­thing along the same lines?

South Asian coun­tries face many waste-re­lated is­sues. While the vol­umes of waste dif­fer across coun­tries, the core is­sue is how much waste there is to han­dle be­cause it just keeps on in­creas­ing. A fac­tor in the equa­tion is the emer­gence of the cor­po­rate-di­men­sion along with rapid tech­no­log­i­cal growth. The lack of proper reg­u­la­tion stan­dards when it comes to waste, along with weak plans to counter it, only add to the frag­ile sit­u­a­tion, which should not be put be­neath the rug any longer. One can def­i­nitely imag­ine the pace at which the waste is in­creas­ing, and what will hap­pen in the fu­ture? Are these coun­tries will­ing to ig­nore the waste?

The best course should be to start con­sid­er­ing the so­lu­tions and come up with a proper plan. There should be a sys­tem­atic eval­u­a­tion of the waste sit­u­a­tion in the re­gion. While the data is read­ily avail­able of pre­vi­ous re­search un­der­tak­ings, some­thing on a much grander scale would be re­quired. South Asian coun­tries could also join hands and do some­thing on a joint ba­sis. To­gether or not, in any case, the eval­u­a­tion will help with the un­der­stand­ing of the prob­lem, and how to counter it. The waste, just like the pro­ject in the Mal­dives, could be used to pro­duce energy. The power cri­sis in the re­gion is some­thing that the coun­tries have been find­ing hard to deal with. While a few coun­tries have taken the ini­tia­tive to counter it, it is not enough. By pro­duc­ing energy from the waste, these South Asian coun­tries can hope to start get­ting rid of a big prob­lem and also trans­form an ear­lier loss into a win-win sit­u­a­tion. This will also help the over­all en­vi­ron­men­tal sit­u­a­tion in these coun­tries, while they con­tinue to de­velop.

Ap­par­ently, it is not a mat­ter of pos­si­bil­ity of adopt­ing such projects as it all comes down to the ap­proach of these coun­tries - whether they’re will­ing to look at the big­ger pic­ture and do some­thing that not only gets rid of a ma­jor is­sue but also cre­ates gain for them.

The ex­am­ple of the Mal­dives is an im­por­tant one, since it re­flects an ini­tia­tive to­wards is­sue res­o­lu­tion. Per­haps, it will not be enough, but in all hon­esty, it is a step in the right di­rec­tion. As for the other South Asian coun­tries, they should look at the Mal­dives and start pon­der­ing over the steps that have been taken by this coun­try.

The Mal­dives is a coun­try which thrives on its tourism, but has found it hard to man­age its waste.

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