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Thalifushi landfill: a toxic bomb in the ocean, Maldives

What originally looked like typical Maldives paradisiac lagoon has now became a 'Toxic bomb in the ocean'; since in 1991 autorities have decided to extablish in Thilafushi a landfill to solve the Male's garbage predicament.


'Walking around Thilafushi is hellish. To protect yourself against toxic exhalations, you have to put a scarf over your face, and you can easily twist your ankle climbing mountains of trash. Behind concrete block walls you can see piles and piles of plastic bottles. Down the road, in the poisonous fog, garbage trucks dump their load’

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Thalifushi landfill: a toxic bomb in the ocean, Maldives
State or province:North Central Province
Location of conflict:Thilafushi, Kaafu Atoll
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Tourism facilities (ski resorts, hotels, marinas)
Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Specific commodities:Domestic municipal waste
toxic waste
Project Details and Actors
Project details

According to official statistics, a single tourist produces 3.5kg of garbage a day, twice as much as someone from Malé and five times more than anyone from the rest of the Maldives archipelago. This means that from 300 to 400 tons of trash are dumped on Thilafushi island every day. [1]

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Project area:50
Type of populationSemi-urban
Start of the conflict:2008
Company names or state enterprises:Heavy Load Maldives from Maldives - contractor for dredging of Thilafushi
Thilafushi Corporation from Maldives
Relevant government actors:Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Water
Maldives' Environment Protection Agency
Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC)
Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture of Republic of Maldives
Municipality of Malè
International and Finance InstitutionsThe World Bank (WB) from United States of America
Corporación financiera Internacional (CFI)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Blue Peace Maldives
Taking it Global
Global Islands Network
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Public campaigns
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
Other Environmental impactsWater acidification caused by the landfill has dramatic consequences on corals, which are needed to build reefs and in turn to create new islands.
The practise to bury the litter to gain space on the island, lead potentially dangerous consequences. If toxic products such as mercury, lead or asbestos leak into the sea, it will have a dramatic effect on the undersea environment, and could even find its way into the food chain- if ingested by the local fauna. [2]
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Other Health impactsThe trash is burned in open air producing a disgusting smoke that cause breath disease, especially impacting the landfill workers (most of them are immigrants from Bangladesh). No health impact has been officially carried on yet.
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impactsLoss of livelihood for fishermen due to water pollution and tourism increase
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Negotiated alternative solution
Government invited bids for Thilafushi waste processing in order to convert the landfill in an environmentally friendly incineration site.
In 2011 the former Maldivian Democratic Party led government signed a contract with Tatva Global Renewable Energy - a consortium of UPL Environmental Engineering Limited (India) and MDSE (Germany)- to provide waste management services in and around Male, including establishing a system to generate power from recycling waste. However, the current government of President Abdulla Yameen cancelled that deal. The agreement was suported by IFC. [10][11]
Proposal and development of alternatives:Local EJOs are fighting in order to promote a much in deep concern of the government and citizens on environmental problems in general. They mainly focus on the impact of climate change, since Maldives islands is one of the worldwide most affected area.
When it comes to hazardous waste, Bluepeace suggests that the solution have to be addressed whithin a national framework for solid waste management in the Maldives. They complain that there are a number of studies by different oganizations on solid waste disposal for the Maldives, but they haven't been taking into account by local institutions.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The landfill is still in operation. Recently the Government invited bids for Thilafushi waste processing in order to convert the landfill in an environmentally friendly incineration site. However local EJO's complain that so far, local institutions have been trying for 20 years to solve the problem and it’s only getting worse. [9]
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Maldives Tourism Act No. 2/99 - Regulation on the Protection and Conservation of Environment in the Tourism Industry
[click to view]

Drainage and Plumbing Regulations 1996.
[click to view]

Sewage Disposal Regulations 1996.
[click to view]

Export and Import Act (Act No. 31 of 1979).
[click to view]

Environmental Protection and Preservation Act of Maldives (Law No. 4/93).
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Country Analysis Paper 'Maldives' edited for Fourth Regional 3R Forum in Asia. “3Rs in the Context of Rio+20 Outcomes – The Future We Want” Ha Noi, Viet Nam, 18-20 March 2013. (accessed 25/05/2015)
[click to view]

[1] Newspaper article from 'Le Monde' online (11/05/2012). Maldives: Idyllic Archipelago's Unprecedented Floating Trash Dump. (accessed 27/04/2015)
[click to view]

[2] Online article from Blue Peace Blog (29/02/2008). Thilafushi: Toxic Bomb in the Ocean (accessed 27/04/2015)
[click to view]

[3] Newspaper article from 'Minivan News' online (8/9/2011). Garbage floats freely from “impatient” boats. By Eleanor Johnstone (accessed 24/04/2015)
[click to view]

[5] Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture of Republic of Maldives. Assessment of Solid Waste Management Practices and Its Vulnerability to Climate Risks in Maldives Tourism Sector. 2013 (accessed 27/04/2015)
[click to view]

[6] Newspaper article from 'Minivan News' online (13/02/2012). ACC’s stop work order on Heavy Load politically motivated, alleges Reeko Moosa. By JJ Robinson (accessed 28/04/2015)
[click to view]

[7] Article from Global Islands Network web site. Page 'Maldives'. (accessed 27/04/2015)
[click to view]

[8] Wikipedia. Thilafushi (accessed 27/04/2015)
[click to view]

[9]Newspaper article from 'Minivan News' online (11/04/2015). Government to invite bids for Thilafushi waste processing (accessed 28/04/2015)
[click to view]

[10] International Finance Corporation (IFC). IFC's Approach to solid waste. Jim Michelsen, Sr. Industry Specialist, SW Climate Business Group for REINNOVA, Sabadell 17th - 18th November 2011 (accessed 25/05/2015)
[click to view]

[11] On line article from 'Quillads' (12/04/2015). Governement to invite bids for Thilafushi waste processing. (accessed 25/05/2015)
[click to view]

Web site of 'Maldives Environmental Management Project' - Government project to improve the solid waste management system'
[click to view]

Newspaper article on 'News Discovery' taken from L’Agence France-Presse (AFP) (18/10/2013). 'Toxic bomb' Ticks on Maldives Trash Island (accessed 04/05/2015)
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Paola Camisani (EJOLT team Barcelona)
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1948
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