Sunday, June 24, 2012

Paradise Lost: Shame of Maldive's "Garbage Island"

The islands of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean have long been associated with incredible beauty, a paradise for tourists from around the world who flock to the tiny archipelago to enjoy its amazing beaches.

But the island nations' secret shame has been revealed, as one of the islands in the chain of twenty-six atolls that make up the Maldives has been turned into a squalid area of burning garbage.

The inhabited island of Thilafushi has been transformed from its former idyllic beauty into an island of fetid, burning rubbish. Not far from the eyes of tourists, the tiny atoll is now the trash receptacle for the entire nation, which boasts a population of only 330,000 residents. Tourism, however, boosts the population of the island considerably at any given time, as over 750,000 people a year visit the Maldives, with most coming from Europe. The huge influx of visitors each year has created a nightmare in waste disposal, with the government unable to handle the immense amounts of garbage created. It has been estimated that each visitor generates more than a pound of garbage a day during their visit.

The island must cope with an estimated 300 tons of garbage each day, with very little space to deal with such copious amounts of human refuse. Thilafushi is now referred to by locals as "Garbage Island". A thick, toxic haze of continuously burning rubbish now taints the once cerulean blue skies over the island, and the garbage is stacked to the ocean's edge, marring formerly pristine white sand beaches.

Now, inhabitants of the island are scrounging among the vast piles of garbage, in search of scraps of metal or anything that can be salvaged and sold in order to make end's meet. Recently, boats have been tossing the garbage directly into the sea, not wanting to wait up to seven hours to dump their loads into the open land fill on the island. Now, the government has temporarily banned more garbage from being dumped on Thilafushi, with boats now being sent to India to dump their refuse.

A  recycling program has been put into place in earnest in an attempt to help control the overwhelming trash situation.

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