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.


  1. vivian reethi dutch chick said,

    April 30, 2008 @ 6:45 am

    Hi everybody,

    I just arrived male and I was really impressed of the beautiful environment.
    It’s like a small paradise on earth these islands and especially the sea, is what
    i really love. Went diving for the 1st time in my life and it was wonderful!

    But I’m quiet shocked about these jet boosters – is this The Way to get rid of your shit?

    Not only the chemicals,shit and pie can be dangerous for children who swim near male or even people of another age, but it’s also really bad for the ground and sea life.

    We’re living in 2008, we know a lot about technology, isn’t there 1 (filter or cleaning) system – witch is not too expensive – and can keep male more clean?

    Maybe it’s not worst yet- but what about 10, 20, 30 or fifty years.

    I think you all should be proud of your beautiful Islands and sea.

    I’d just like to say: Keep Male clean – INVEST in your nature

  2. Selvam R Nath said,

    May 4, 2008 @ 6:06 am

    The article is really good to point out the disposal of wastes materials in the Ocean.
    If we treat the waste water before discharge it into the sea / ocean, as per the standards, there is less risk factor. But if not !!!!! We really have to face the after effects of that.

    Waste Water Management System is a must for the countries like Maldives. Ofcource once it is disposed into the Ocean, it will spread all the parts due to the waves and currents. But any depositions, then its impact to the Coral communities, is a threat. So to avoid that we have to think about the facts.

    As it is pointed out in the article, if any swimming beaches and places near to the discharge areas, it will lead to some medical problems to the human also.

    When we take about the fish communities, sewage pollution creates lots of diseases and health problems. And this will affect the fish stock and marine / coral life of Maldives. If not now, may be in near future.

    So let us think about it seriously, and take steps to avoid such a circumstances.

  3. zan^^ said,

    May 14, 2008 @ 3:53 am

    thanks for the pics and info…it will make a drastic change in my family,as they use artificial beach and track as one of there main source to be healthy huh…

  4. dhaadha said,

    May 24, 2008 @ 8:32 am

    ewww!!!! i dunt thnk tht im ever gonna swim in male’………

  5. rasheedbari said,

    January 18, 2009 @ 10:01 pm

    I have been swimming regularly at the artificial beach as well as swimming track over eight years.

    i know the exact location of the sewage pipes around Male’ as well as some of the results of the environmental studies conducted by GKW? MWSA and MWSC; there are several issues to be discussed; however I am more concerned with the fact that nearly 2/3 of the population of Maldives have their sewage dumped in the back yard without proper treatment; the domestic population may be drinking rain water collected off the roof (which has no quality assurance) but they do use groundwater for other potable consumption and are at risk. take a bath at the atholhuge in any atholuverikankuraa island ; one not trained in the ways of bathing from these wells run the risk of suffocation too. i am not refering to the two or three people who died in the ground water well in Murex/Male years ago or even the deaths in well near fish market last year.

    i would say we have taken ages dragging our feet in implementation of proper sewer systems in the islands. sad reality is that we never learn, we keep making same or even worse mistakes as we go on over and over again. do not allow me unroll this list……..the industry vocals i am sure will elaborate on this point as we go on.

    some thoughts for the road:
    1. what % of the islands have proper sewers
    3. how many times did we redesign them?
    4. how many times did we have to repair them even b4 we finished construction?
    5. is our institutional memory bigger than the cockroaches?
    6. are we still intoxicated by the color of the skin or the accent of the consultant? how else can u let the Thulusdhoo public water supply be commissioned without even a chlorination system and entertain the junior water consultant say ” we were not asked for a disinfection system”!!!!
    6. at the going speed how long before we can construct sustainable sanitary systems in the islands?
    7. who will balance the ingredients such as technology, price, community expectations, risks and sustainability, operations and maintenance, regulations and authority? credibility and integrity in this industry?

    as I speak i am aware that sewage or waste water cannot be discussed in isolation from WATER.

    Water is a human right!! it shall not be regarded as a commodity subjected to supply an demand in developing countries. now this is a serious issue at this juncture when we go for REGIONAL UTILITIES without REGULATORS. remember these things do not happen over night!! I should say it is not a fairy tale that can change at the stroke of midnight and a discovery of a glass slipper!

    after that heat warming thought of the savior of a heroic girl subjected to manipulation and abuse by her STEP MOTHER, now to get back to the topic on sewage and swimming in the waters around Male’ and Male waste water treatment and disposal system; let us widen our vision to cover the whole nation while we look for an integral solution to this problem using our institution memory as well as the data that we have collected over the last 15 to 20 years from the islands.

  6. The 10 Most Insidious & Destructive Pollutants on Earth | WebEcoist said,

    March 28, 2009 @ 2:13 am

    […] via Bluepeace, […]

  7. Jim said,

    December 11, 2009 @ 12:44 am

    This is disturbing that this happens, although I’m sure not uncommon in the world. No offense to the residents of Male, but maybe it will be a good thing when climate change causes the ocean to swallow this island. It will give the reefs and the ocean life a chance to recover.

  8. Carl Lindstrom said,

    January 12, 2010 @ 8:53 pm

    There is a way to eliminate the sewer by endorsing the new way of seeing human waste as a safe to use resource for growing better food !
    Please contact us

    All the best

  9. Sewage Treatment said,

    August 3, 2010 @ 3:16 pm

    The problem is not just confined to Male as the UK faces similar problems.
    In 2007, the sewage and water industry caused 19% of serious (category 1 and 2) water pollution incidents.Between 2004 and 2008, water companies in England and Wales were prosecuted 342 times for serious pollution offences, according to the E.A. watchdog.
    Decentralisation of sewage works is the only answer.

  10. Rainwater Harvesting said,

    August 3, 2010 @ 3:24 pm

    Failing sewage infrastructure nationwide has been described as “a ticking time bomb that’s ready to go off.” The truth is, the fuse has almost burnt out.
    We trust the UK Water Companies to safeguard our rivers – it is their responsibility, paid for by us through our sewage rates – and they are failing us all.
    The Water Companies are fined on a regular basis (but not enough) because the infrastructure is not coping.

  11. Shums said,

    September 16, 2013 @ 1:18 pm

    I rarely go swimming in Male’ , while I was teaching I had to go to the swimming track with the kids for a week, after which I ended up with a very bad skin rash and infection. This is a very serious issue, it’s sad people aren’t focusing on Things like this now …

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