Archive for Pollution


Organised and managed waste disposal programmes or systems are not common place in the Maldives. Mostly in the local islands, the island administration (Island Office) does not provide any municipal service. The island administration or local authorities currently are not mandated to provide services such as waste collection or disposal. Instead individuals or households dispose waste as they see fit, creating environmental hazards.

A lorry carrying domestic waste collected at Male’ Waste Collection Centre to be transported to Thilafushi to be disposed.

This year the Maldives is going to introduce Local Governments in island communities in a comprehensive way for the first time in its history to promote or improve the economic, social, and the environmental well-being of the island communities. Though Maldives never had Local Governments in this form, the Maldives has a traditional system of local government. The present system of island administration is not well-suited to the changing life patterns that it has to deal with. For instance, only a couple of decades ago most waste produced on the islands of the Maldives was biodegradable.  Today local authorities or island administrations are not capable of dealing with non-biodegradable alien products such as plastics and hazardous waste.

Domestic waste from Male is transported in lorries to Thilafushi by a landing craft.

Currently there are limited organised means for waste disposal in the country. For Greater Male’ region a lagoon-fill site at Thilafushi is being used. There is also a waste disposal programme presently undergoing in the North Province which is administered by the Maldives Environment Management Project and funded by the World Bank.

Refuse or waste collection can be the most routine and visible activities of the local council in order to promote or improve the environmental well-being of the people of local council area.

Legally, local councils are required by the Local Government Act to collect and dispose of the waste produced in the local area. This requirement aims to promote and improve the environmental well-being of the people of local council area.  Each local council can make its own decisions as to the method and timing of waste collection.

The local councils or their agents have to deal with all wastes, such as all household waste, street litter, municipal parks and garden waste, council office waste and some commercial and industrial waste. In an average a household in the capital Male’ an individual produces 2.8kg of waste per day and in the atolls around 0.66kg of waste is produced by an individual on a daily basis. The waste produced by the tourism industry stands at 7.2kg per guest per day, and a huge proportion of these wastes are dumped into the ocean.

Introduction of bins to collect waste and establish an economically viable waste management regime with emphasis on establishing a competitive recycling programme should be one of the major challenges for the local government.

Waste disposal is one of the critical environmental issues throughout the Maldives for some time, and environment has been placed under increasing pressure. A number of waste disposal projects have been inefficiently implemented without much success.

A Waste Collection Centre lying idle for more than four years in  Raa Hulhuduffaaru without a proper waste management regime.

Following the Asian Tsunami, various donors actively participated and supported the waste management regimes, by creating waste disposal centres. The Australian and Canadian Red Cross Societies jointly funded a project worth AU$9.5 million to implement a sustainable waste management programme in the Maldives. The project aims to strengthen the solid waste management system of domestic garbage. Under the project 80 waste management centres were built in 74 of the most tsunami-affected islands. Unfortunately, most of these centres are not sustainable, as the facilities lack adequate management with absence of proper waste management laws.

Waste collected near the beach in Raa Hulhuduffaaru, not taken into the Waste Collection Centre.

The bulk of Local Government spending is going to be financed by grant from the Central Government; however the Local Government Act of 2010 empowers the Atoll Council to charge a fee for the services they provide in their wards.  For a sustainable management of a refuse collection programme, a direct charge for waste by weight, volume, or a combination of both, should be imposed.   A variable charging for domestic and non-domestic waste can strongly influence recycling and encourage waste minimisation behaviour.

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Bluepeace has discovered used engine oil is being discharged into a ditch at the Waste Collection Center for Building Debris in Male’. This reckless discharge of waste oil into groundwater could worsen the already contaminated groundwater of Male’. The Waste Collection Center, managed by Male’ Municipality and located near the STELCO building, is an alarming hotspot for pollution in the capital city.

Even though groundwater is collected from boreholes ranging in depth from 50 to 60 meters in Male’ for desalination by Maldives Water and Sewerage Company (MWSC), risk of groundwater contamination by used engine oil is increasingly high.

Currently there are no proper disposal facilities to manage the used engine oil or black industrial oil in Male’. The only disposal facilities available are bins in Thilafushi for dumping waste. Another source of pollution is used engine oil in plastic containers dumped daily into Male’ lagoon from vessels.

Under the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil, reception facilities for waste oil and oil separated from bilge water has to be provided. Such facilities do not currently exist and neither do facilities for oil disposal.

Used engine oil is also a valuable resource that could be recycled. It can also be used to run some types of incinerators.

Update. 26 December 2010. After Bluepeace published this blog post the ditch at the Waste Management Center was buried and empty oil barrels have been placed to dispose used engine oil. The barrels are taken to Thilafushi where a proper disposal mechanism for used engine oil is yet to be implemented.

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Fish enjoy sewage effluent, which is discharged in every ½ hour interval from a sewer outfall around Malé

When children and others swim and bath in the waters around Malé, especially in the artificial beach and swimming tract in Malé, they could not imagine how close they are to sewer outfalls and how much the water in which they swim is contaminated with faecal and chemicals from these untreated sewer outfalls.

School children getting ready to take swimming lessons in the Swimming Tract in Malé, near a sewer outfall.

In past instances the swimming tract and artificial beach were closed for public for swimming and bathing due to complaints of higher sewer contamination.

According to the State of the Environment Report 2002, sewage effluent, potentially harmful substances and different chemicals are disposed untreated into coastal water of Male’ from nine pump stations by means of six sewer outfalls around Male’. “The pollution load from these sewer outfalls probably exceeds the dilution capacity of the receiving waters,” State of the Environment Report 2002 said.

Artificial Beach: One and Only Beach for 1/3 of Population of Maldives Living in Malé

Domestic sewage, industrial wastewater and clinical and lab waste water from photo and X-ray labs are discharged untreated from these six sewer outfalls into the sea and reefs around Malé.

The results of the discharge of untreated sewage effluent, sediment stress from harbor dredging and reclamation has affected coral reef around Malé and seriously degraded the reef compared to other islands. Except few resorts, sewage treatment is an alien business in the Maldives: most of the islands sewage effluent is disposed into ground by mean of septic tanks or untreated into sea.

There is potential impact of the untreated wastewater on the health of people and the environment, and the fear of these chemicals getting into the food chain.

The currents flowing around Malé and across Atolls in the Maldives reverse with the change in season, during Iruvaa (North East Monsoon- December-April) current flows from the North, and during Hulhagu (South West Monsoon- April-December), it’s the reverse. With change in season, the pattern of sewer contamination around Malé also changes.

Even in 2002 sewerage contamination from these outfalls exceeded the “dilution capacity of the receiving water”. Can you imagine the present level of sewage concentration around the coast of Malé after 7 years?

According to the Regulation on Protection and Conservation of Environment in the Tourism Industry, sewage from resorts, hotels and guesthouses have to be disposed in a manner that is least harmful to the environment. If this is the case, what is mindboggling is that this regulation is not enforced on hotels and guesthouses built in Malé.


If untreated sewage is not good for tourist resorts, why it good enough for more than 100,000 locals living in Malé and those in other outer islands?

Recently, the Constitution Assembly (People’s Special Majlis) has adopted the right to sewerage system as a fundamental human right. If untreated sewage is disposed into the sea and reefs, we wonder how many people’s right to a safe and healthy environment is violated in the Maldives.

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