Kandy Violence Going Viral
Ocean. Generally, the southern atolls fall in the high-risk zone. Similarly, the eastern chain of islands is at high risk of tsunami hazards caused by earthquakes originating in the Sumatra subduction zone of the eastern Indian Ocean. The Dec. 26, 2004, super tsunami with up to 4 m high waves swept across the eastern island and severely damaged 40 islands affecting one-third of the population.
According to a 2008 UNDP report, in the Disaster Risk Management Program, the least occurring natural hazards include earthquakes and tsunami but in terms of severity, tsunamis are rated as very high hazards while earthquakes are low hazards. Windstorms are more frequent and quite severe, while heavy rainfall events occur frequently as compared to drought and storm surges that are less frequent and not so severe. The prevalence of cyclone hazards, wind storms and drought decreases from the north to the south while hazards related to heavy rainfall, swell waves and earthquakes decrease from the south to the north.
Habitat destruction in the Maldives and over-exploitation are major threats to biological diversity caused by such coastal development activities as harbour development and land reclamation. The run-off from agricultural fields through pesticides and chemical fertilizers is also becoming an increasing problem in terms of eutrophication of coral reefs. This is a process in which a body of water becomes enriched in dissolved nutrients (such as phosphates) that stimulate the growth of aquatic plant life usually resulting in the depletion of dissolved oxygen. Since the Maldivian islands are reef-based, where coral reefs serve as natural breakwaters for waves and currents, coral mining and impact of climate change may destroy the natural protection of islands and make them more vulnerable to inundation and erosion.
An estimated 860 metric tons of solid waste is generated in the Maldives per day, of which 21 % is caused by tourism. About two-thirds of the remaining waste comes from the urban areas, while island communities produce 35% waste. More than a hundred tourist resorts generate about 135 metric tons per day, whereas more than 150 safari vessels used for transporting tourists around the country discard 8 tons of waste per day. Solid waste produced by island communities and urban areas is made up of 70% food/garden waste and paper products, 3% recyclable materials and 27% residuals i.e. construction and demolition debris, glass, leather, textiles, rubber and batteries.
Solid waste is mostly transported through trucks where road connections exist. However, boats and ships are commonly used for transporting most of the waste to the Thilafushi Island about 7 km west of the capital Malé, where it is dumped. An estimated 400 tons of trash is dumped every day on 124 acres of land, a part of which ultimately slides or is rain-washed down-slope into the coastal waters. This used to be a shallow lagoon encircled by coral reefs till 1992. Now the government has declared it as a final dumping ground for the enormous municipal waste generated across the country. By 2014, Thilafushi had literally turned into a ‘Garbage Island’ dominated by flies, plastics, toxic materials, oil drums, asbestos, lead and other noxious metals with clouds of smoke rising because of open air burning of the waste.
The writer is former Chairman, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Peshawar.