The failed movement towards sustainability

A look back at the movements towards sustainability in the Maldives in 2022.

In recent years, the negative effects of climate change have started becoming more and more evident in parts of the world. While some countries suffered due to major heat waves, a lot of the countries were suffering from heavy rain and flooding. The call for sustainability got louder than ever in 2022 as the impact of climate change was no longer just a matter of rain and sunshine, it started affecting people’s lives and causing instability in the economy of countries,

2022 saw the heatwave in China, as people wished for rain while in Pakistan heavy rains and flash floods caused major loss to the country’s economy and livelihood of people as houses and crops were destroyed and the impact it left had people calling the devastation a humanitarian crisis. This year also saw several tropical storms and unpredictable weather conditions in almost all parts of the globe. The need for a change had become more apparent than ever, and while everyone was ten years too late, in the Maldives the drive towards sustainability in order to create a greener and more eco-friendly country started strong.

A fresh start for sustainability

The year 2022 started with the introduction of waste management in the Maldives. While the country might be small, Maldives produces a large amount of waste. Statistics show that the Maldives produces 43,134 tonnes of plastic waste annually, making plastic waste an astonishing 12 percent of the waste produced in a year. This might come as a surprise to many, but looking at the usage of plastic in Maldivian households and even in the day-to-day activities of an average Maldivian, it really is not that surprising that the country produces so much plastic waste. Everything from shopping to getting take-away has always consisted of at least two pieces of plastic, which can easily pile up to make a large sum of plastic waste.

And while this amount of plastic waste being produced in this small country is shocking, the worse part is that with no proper policies set in place, 66 percent of all waste produced is discarded carelessly - whether that means the waste is burnt or going into the ocean, these consequences obviously lead to major environmental impacts.

In order to curb these issues and make a real change waste management and segregation were introduced in 2022. This meant that households were requested to separate their waste into three parts so that food waste, plastic waste and other waste can be disposed of in a proper manner. This movement was needed in the Maldives for a long time as waste segregation was a completely foreign concept in the country.

In addition to this, the Maldives also took major steps towards reducing the import and usage of plastic waste in the country. In 2022 the list of banned plastic items was increased and the country finally started embracing minor sustainable changes such as the usage of paper straws and plastic bottles. Finally, restaurants and households started the usage of glass bottles and metal straws as an alternative, and sustainability in the country appeared to be moving in the right direction.

With more public knowledge surrounding climate change and the environment, the increased use of tote bags in place of plastic bags and the movement towards thrifting got bigger. Sustainability became an important thing in the Maldives, especially among the youngsters who had become fully aware of the impact that humans were causing on their own planet. While these movements were going strong, and the youth of the country are still putting in their best effort to make the Maldives a sustainable country, there have also been some major stepbacks this year.

Major setbacks in the sustainability movement

2022 was a year when the Maldives achieved a lot with regards to sustainability and then took a full 180, undoing any efforts that were put in place at the start of the year. First things first, the introduction of the waste segregation bill and the movement towards waste management was absolutely necessary and an important step that the Government took for the betterment of the country.

However, with no proper first steps in place such as informing the public on exactly how waste segregation is carried out or why it is so important to implement such measures, the movement quickly failed. As people struggled to figure out which trash goes into which bag, it felt like the Government was impatient and could not give people the time to learn and pick up the habit of segregation their waste. Sad to say, but unfortunately as we approach the end of the year waste segregation in the Maldives is close to non-existent.

And while everyone thought that would be the worst of the failure to implement sustainability in the Maldives, on the 28th of November the Government took one of the biggest step-backs by making changes to a section of the Waste Management Act (WMA). While the original clause prohibited any kind of waste from being imported into the Maldives, in a shocking turn of events the clause was changed allowing waste to be imported to the Maldives. With this news breaking out, the public as well as several environmental organisations expressed their concern and raised their concerns to change the bill in order to protect the fragile environment of the Maldives from being turned into a garbage dump.

With the Government giving a deaf ear to public concern as the year comes to an end, world sustainability felt like a marketing tactic used within the year 2022. With the passing of this bill and no proper waste management in place by the end of the year, who knows how much longer the Maldives will stay the picture-perfect destination with clean white sandy beaches?

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