On Saturday, the council presidents of eleven islands in the Baa, Noonu, and Haa Dhaalu atolls gave government ministers and MPs a radical, fresh vision of improved waste management in their islands and pledged to take action to lessen island trash and pollution.
Following a two-day workshop held at Soneva Fushi in October to design the program's next phase, the presidents of the "Namoona" islands ("Namoona" means "exemplary" in Dhivehi) signed the commitments and handed them to ministers at a high-level gathering to celebrate the Soneva Namoona program.
The island council presidents, in their written commitment, pledged to:
- Segregate, clean and collect all recyclable solid waste on their islands, and end the open burning of non-organic waste, by the end of 2023
- Lead an ambitious phase-out of single-use plastics on the islands.
- Hire and train waste management specialists and share their knowledge with other islands.
- Support inter-island initiatives such as the Alun Balun re-sale market to encourage waste reduction.
The signing of these commitments took place at the high-level event on B. Kihaadhoo in the presence of Cabinet ministers Aminath Shauna, Minister for Environment, Climate Change, and Technology, Minister of Tourism Dr. Abdullah Mausoom, CEO of Local Government Authority Afshan Latheef, and Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Decentralization MP Ali Niyaz.
In addition to these pledges, the island council presidents urged the government to do more to lessen the amount of single-use plastics that are left behind on the islands and support islands in improving waste management.
The council presidents presented 13 policy recommendations to Government, including:
1. State companies should stop producing bottled water, which produces huge amounts of plastic waste and undermine trust in the domestic water supply.
2. Ensure the safety of water provided to households and publish water quality test results to improve public trust. Also, provide public water filling stations on all islands, in schools, and public spaces.
3. Single-use plastic water bottles should be banned in resorts from 2024, and the provision of alternatives to single-use plastics for other items, such as amenities and drinks, should be included in resorts’ operating licenses.
4. WAMCO should stop accepting unsegregated non-legacy waste from islands as a way to incentivise island-level waste management best practices
5. Enforce regulations that ban the dumping of waste at sea.
After watching how island residents separate their household waste, the delegation visited Kihaadhoo's Eco Centro, a newly renovated waste management facility. The community's implementation of the "Shore to Open Water Series" swimming program, which taught 26 individuals from seven Namoona islands to become swimming and water rescue instructors, was also discussed.
“It is a pleasure to host this event on behalf of all Namoona islands to showcase the Namoonaa model for sustainable waste management. We believe this can be a blueprint for the rest of the Maldives to move towards sustainable waste management practices,” the President of Kihaadhoo council, Hussain Shafiu said.
Commenting at the event, Azhoora Ahmed, President of Soneva Namoona NGO, said “The policy recommendations we are sharing today are drawn from the shared learnings of the Namoona islands. These are priceless insights reflecting the reality of refining sustainable management practices in the Maldives. Today’s dialogue is a step on a journey that we hope will center local community experiences at the heart of government policy.”
Speaking at the event, Minister Shauna said: “I take onboard these recommendations and thank the councils and Soneva Namoona for the thought they have put into formulating these. This is a good example of local communities, civil society and private sector and coming together to innovate and solve the huge challenge of waste management in the Maldives.”