Putrid poisonous smoke rises from open fires made up of plastic bottles, snack wrappers and all kinds of other trash. This is the Maldives, the quintessential paradise island vacation-destination set in the Indian Ocean.
Of the 200 islands in the Maldives, 99 are vacation resorts. This is why there’s a trash problem here: The country dumps upwards of 330 tons of rubbish on the island every day, largely due to the huge influx of vacationers.
It’s been estimated that each visitor generates 3.5kg of waste per day.
Four miles west of Malé is the country’s dumping site, Thilafushi Island – or Rubbish Island. This is where everything gets dumped and environmentalists say that this is not the way to deal with a waste problem.
Thilafushi was built on coral reefs 20 years ago. Here, Waste flows into the sea and the air is thick with dust and flies. The government of the Maldives has only recently banned dumping onto the island because waste boats have been ‘fly-tipping’ directly into the sea, so they don’t have to wait hours (sometimes as many as 7 or 8) to offload their cargo properly.
Is it too late? Large amounts of asbestos, lead and other toxic metals are already swimming in the lagoon.
Most tourists have no idea this island even exists. If they did, would they just look the other way?