Who would ever thought that one of the most beautiful places on the planet, also known as a tropical paradise in the Indian Ocean, has a dark secret to hide? I am talking here about Maldives, which is, unfortunately, the home of the world’s biggest rubbish island.
Thilafalhu Island as well as many other islands in Maldives was originally a lagoon with a beautiful white sand and unspoiled coral reef. However, everything changed when in the early 90’s, the capital city Malé – the largest resident population in Maldives – could not cope with the amount of rubbish they have produced. In order to resolve Malé’s unmanageable garbage dilemma, the former lagoon Thilafalhu, situated just few miles west of Malé, was developed into a landfill. Transformation of the island’s landscape warranted a name change too, thus Thilafushi, the garbage island was born. Thilafushi soon became the main target for the other islands too to be found in Maldives, as rapidly growing numbers of tourists made it difficult to deal with the trash they generate.
In order to solve the problem, gigantic pits were excavated that were filled up with unsorted waste and after that were covered back again with sand. However, the operation of digging and filling the pits was terminated because the amount of waste became too large to cover.
According to “The Guardian”, more than 10,000 tourists visit Maldives each week. As a result, the waste that the visitors produce end up on the grounds of the rubbish land. In addition, environmentalists alert that on the daily basis, more than 330 tones of rubbish is deposited on the Thilafushi Island. Because of that, the size of the rubbish island has spread to 50 hectares and therefore continues to increase in size by a square meter a day.
Poor maintenance of Island’s waste management is causing serious problems to the environment and is a great concern for environmentalists. Streams of smelly smoke from the mountains of plastics, used batteries, leads, asbestos, as well as other potentially hazardous waste leach out into the surrounding water. That of course increases the risk and affects the health of the local people, reefs, as well as marine wildlife and cause severe ecological problems for the Maldives. What strikes me the most is that regardless of the adversity, Thilafushi Island remains largely hidden from the view of its country’s residents.
Although it seems that Maldives, have no resources and land to operate a sustainable waste disposal system, nevertheless, the government failed to recognize appropriate strategies in order to minimize long lasting effect on the country’s environment.
Moreover, on 5th of September 2011, Haveeru released a shocking video revealing large amounts of garbage floating away from Thilafushi into the Ocean. The article in the leading daily Maldivian newspaper “Haveeru Daily”, also addressed the issue with the article “The largest dump yard drifts away”. The crew from the newspaper have visited Thilafushi Island and found a catastrophic situation at the harbor of the island. Plastic bottles, bags, wood pieces and other numerous amounts of waste cover large area of the sea and floats out of the harbor into the wild ocean.
Something has to be done.
The government has to take actions in order to save the environment of one of the most beautiful landscapes on Earth. Otherwise, the tourism, which is the main source of country’s financial income, will decline dramatically as I cannot imagine that the tourists would like to swim or dive in the sea full of rubbish.