Kandy Vi­o­lence Go­ing Vi­ral

Southasia - - MALÉ -

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.

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