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