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become an arkipal

Jan

28

Dustbins in a que…

By admin

Two months ago arkipal sponsored 20 new dustbins for the local island, Velidhoo, in the Noonu Atoll of the Maldives. Unfortunately at this time a lot of rubbish still ends up on the beaches and in the Lagoon despite our start on community awareness. In the beginning of 2012 arkipal started waste management awareness sessions and donated the first bins, which were placed around the island. A weekly pick up service sponsored by the council was arranged and we left in February feeling very hopeful.

From then until now these bins were not used, incorrectly used and even damaged in some cases. In December we started to conduct a waste management survey around the inhabitants’ homes on Velidhoo. In order to find out what has to be improved and changed for the originally proposed program to work, we felt it essential to go directly to the source of the rubbish contributors. We gained some very valuable information from the survey which included the following:

  • The people would be more inclined to use bins if they were closer to their homes, for example in the streets and community areas, rather than just on the beaches
  • They did not know exactly what can and cannot be put into the bins (for example, tuna cans and nappies can be disposed of but kitchen waste cannot).
  • The pick up service originally put into operation did not continue regularly, thus was un-reliable
  • These un-collected bins start to smell and attracted scavengers (the majority of the population said they wanted to see a lot less crows on the island)
  • Many acknowledged that they knew by throwing their waste in the ocean seriously harmed the reef and marine life, but continue to do so because they do not want daily waste to collect up in their homes or the un-collected bins

During the survey period we also met with the island council for further arkipal sponsorship towards waste management. We issued a letter to them to request their organisation for a new pick up service, of 20 further bins, sponsored by us for the island. We proposed to place these new bins in more suitable areas after the beach cleaning on the 5th of December, which is the International Volunteers day. We felt that this would be a perfect occasion to declare the beaches as rubbish free zones, and to explain the new and correct use of the dustbins and waste management program on Velidhoo.

Sadly we got told at a last minute meeting on the 4th of December, which was already many days overdue because of the council postponing meetings, that there were complains about the old broken and smelly bins. The council only informed us then, that they had previously founded a waste management committee. We were told that we would have to discuss our plans with them, to then send a new letter to the council before we could even put the bins out…

In this meeting the council and the waste management committee explained that they will be applying for a waste management grant from World Bank which can take a few months before it could be approved. So instead of waiting for an unknown amount of time from the World Bank, we consider that we should at least start something on a smaller scale on the island. This would obviously be better than continuing to have the nappies, tins, plastic bags and more thrown into the ocean and scattered on the beaches!

As the New Year came in, we received some more disappointing news from the local council. It turned out that the islands’ yearly budget for public services was reduced from 5.2 million Maldivian Rufiya to only 3.1 million, a 40% reduction.

Together with our local partner NGO we are now discussing possibilities we have to distribute these waiting bins around Velidhoo and provide a reliable pick up service. We were thinking of asking for more European sponsorship to finance the pick up service on behalf of arkipal, or to give the bins to local businesses (such as the guesthouses and shops who would then be responsible for their own bins and their intended use).

But we have to say honestly, that we do not really want to be another foreign NGO who sets up and covers the long-term costs for finalised services to such developing countries. As we see our most important work in making progress and creating awareness with the people, we do not want to put the bins out on the island or organise beach clean ups if one week later nothing has changed…

Also we are completely aware of the fact that supporting one local island is only the beginning of a huge challenge that the Maldives faces. This month arkipal had the chance to see Thilafishi, the rubbish island nearby Male, where all the garbage from the resorts and the capital city is collected and burnt. Even if this is a sad place to see in such a beautiful environment, we do not want to blame the local Maldivians or the tourism industry. This is because we know and see that the biggest challenge for the Maldives is setting up a suitable program for a country with limited transport and communications due to its geography. We want to make the locals, tourists, resorts, governments and businesses really aware of the un-tolerable situation. They really need direction and help in order to find a way to improve the waste management in the Maldives, and by smaller islands starting programs such as our bin and public collection scheme, they can set an example to the larger more established island communities.

So, instead of using the money donated by our European sponsors to cover the extra operational costs, we will now find Maldivian sponsors to pay this. We at arkipal, would like to continue to use the European sponsorships we receive, for making our awareness programs more effective rather than to pay out for things that this nation should adopt after our initial contribution.

As chairwomen of arkipal, I would hope that our strictness in not sponsoring such things as the pick up service is well understood. We need the Maldivians’ to get involved with us and cooperate, instead of just being the receivers of change. We will provide the tools for a better future of the islands but the locals must be encouraged to continue the programs furthermore.

As always, I would love your continued thoughts and ideas,

All the best

Mascha

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